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What is Fibroid Embolization?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 18 July 2018
  • Copyright Protected:
    2003-2018
    Conjecture Corporation
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Fibroid embolization is a minimally invasive medical procedure which is used to treat uterine fibroids. Also known as leiomyomas, myomas, or fibromyomas, fibroids are benign growths which form in or near the uterus. These growths may cause no symptoms at all in some patients, but in others they are linked with heavy bleeding, abdominal pain, and other uncomfortable symptoms, leading these patients to seek treatment for their fibroids. Fibroid embolization is one of several treatment options available.

In an embolization procedure, the patient is sedated so that she will be comfortable, and a catheter is threaded into the arteries which supply blood to the fibroids, with the thigh the point of entry. This is done with the assistance of medical imaging equipment which is used to confirm that the catheter is placed in the correct location, with an interventional radiologist usually performing the catheter placement or being present to provide guidance.

Once the catheter is in place, small particles of material are released through the catheter. These particles plug the artery, blocking the flow of blood to the fibroid. Starved of blood, the fibroid will eventually die off. Once imaging confirms that the particles have been placed correctly, the catheter can be withdrawn and the patient can be brought out of sedation. The patient may be asked to stay overnight after fibroid embolization so that she can be monitored, and pain management medications may be administered to help with cramping.

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Complications from this procedure are rare. The biggest concern is that the particles used for embolization could drift elsewhere in the body, cutting off the flow of blood to other areas of the body. Some women who have a fibroid embolization require a hysterectomy to deal with these complications, although this intervention is very rare. No clear statistics are available on how easy pregnancy after embolization might be, as many women have this procedure after they have completed their families.

Pain and some cramping are common after this fibroid treatment, but the recovery goes very quickly. Thanks to the lack of an incision, the risk of infection is low, and some studies suggest that as many as 85% of patients experience relief after fibroid embolization. This option for treatment can be discussed with a gynecologist who can also provide information about other treatment options, and give patients information which can help them make an informed decision about which fibroid treatment will work best for them.

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