How Uterine Fibroid Embolization Works

Uterine fibroid embolization (UFE) is a treatment option for uterine fibroid tumors. Uterine fibroids can cause a variety of symptoms, including heavy menstrual bleeding and periods that last longer than usual.

Here's what you need to know about UFE so you can begin to decide if the procedure is right for you.

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What Are Uterine Fibroid Tumors?

Uterine fibroid tumors, also called fibroids, are noncancerous growths in the walls of the uterus that affect between 20 percent and 40 percent of women over the age of 35. They might not cause any symptoms, but they can cause substantial discomfort for some people.

Symptoms of uterine fibroids may include:

  • Heavy menstrual bleeding
  • Longer periods than usual
  • Pain or a feeling of pressure or fullness in the pelvic area, back, or legs
  • Pain during sexual intercourse
  • Constant feeling of a need to urinate
  • Feeling of pressure in the bowels
  • Constipation
  • Bloating

You can have more than one of these symptoms, and they can be present all the time or may change with your menstrual cycle.

How UFE Works

A UFE procedure stops the blood supply to the fibroids, which makes the fibroids shrink or go away completely. 

During the procedure, you would be given a sedative to help you relax. The procedure does not cause pain.

Your doctor will begin the procedure by making a tiny incision in your groin area. A very small catheter (tube) is passed through the incision into an artery to the uterus.

Tiny particles, about the size of a grain of sand, are injected into the catheter. The particles move through the catheter into the arteries that supply blood to the fibroid to stop the flow of blood, which causes the fibroid to shrink or disappear completely over time.

The procedure has an 85 percent success rate, and most women can return to normal activities after one week.

Side Effects

UFE is considered a safe procedure. There are common side effects, as well as a low risk of adverse events.

Most women can expect moderate to severe cramps for the first few hours after the procedure, and some women may experience nausea and fever. Your healthcare professional can prescribe medication to help with these common side effects.

Some women do not have periods following the procedure, and this can last for months or longer. Studies about getting pregnant following uterine artery embolization are incomplete.

Risks

Infections can occur following the procedure. These may cause pelvic discomfort or fever and can be treated with antibiotics.

An injury to the uterus occurs in about 1 percent of procedures. In these situations, a hysterectomy may be necessary.

Is UFE Right for You?

If your fibroid tumor symptoms are interfering with your day-to-day activities, consider asking your healthcare professional if UFE could be a treatment option for you.

3 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Cleveland Clinic. Uterine fibroids.

  2. Smith SJ. Uterine fibroid embolization [published correction appears in Am Fam Physician 62(8):1786]. Am Fam Physician. 2000;61(12):3601-3612.

  3. Johns Hopkins Medicine. Is uterine fibroid embolization (UFE) the right treatment for you?

Additional Reading
  • ACOG Issues Opinion on Uterine Artery Embolization for Treatment of Fibroid Tumors. ACOG.org.

By Tracee Cornforth
Tracee Cornforth is a freelance writer who covers menstruation, menstrual disorders, and other women's health issues.