By far, the most common reason for embolizing the uterine arteries is to treat symptoms caused by fibroid tumors. This is accomplished by stopping the growth of fibroid tumors and causing them to shrink. Because the effects of uterine fibroid embolization (UFE) on fertility are not yet known, the ideal candidate is a premenopausal woman with symptoms from fibroid tumors who no longer wishes to become pregnant, but wants to avoid having a hysterectomy (surgical removal of the uterus).
Uterine fibroid embolization may be an excellent alternative for women who, for reasons of health or religion, do not want to receive blood transfusions-as may be necessary if open surgery is performed. The procedure also benefits women who, for any reason, cannot receive general anesthesia. Embolization of the uterine arteries may also be used to halt severe bleeding following childbirth or caused by malignant gynecological tumors.
Fibroid embolization was first studied in the United States by Scott Goodwin, M.D., of the University of California Los Angeles, who reported his results in 1997. Since that time, a number of interventional radiologists have studied the procedure and have reported similar success with the technique. The results of studies that have been published or presented at scientific meetings report that 78-94% of women who have the procedure experience significant or total relief of pain and other symptoms, with the large majority of patients considerably improved. The procedure has been successful, even when multiple fibroids are involved. Most patients have rated the procedure as “very tolerable.” The expected average reduction in the volume (size) of the fibroids is 50-70%, with a reduction in the overall size of the uterus of about 40-50%.
The long-term outcome is not completely known because the procedure is relatively new and only short mid-term follow-up is available. It is not yet known if the fibroids may regrow; however, no recurrences have occurred in women who have been followed for up to six years.