Uterine fibroids are a common condition and may cause symptoms such as heavy menstrual bleeding, pelvic pain or bowel and bladder problems. Various treatment options exist such as intra-uterine coil placement, myomectomy (surgical removal of part of the womb) or hysterectomy (removal of the whole womb). More recently, treatment of uterine fibroids with a minimally invasive x-ray guided technique, uterine fibroid embolisation (UFE) has been available and it is estimated that 50000 women worldwide have received this treatment since it was first performed in the early 1990s.
The aim of UFE is to block the blood vessels supplying blood to the fibroids. Once starved of blood the fibroids reduce in size and the symptoms associated with them generally recede. The procedure involves inserting a plastic tube via the artery at the top of the leg and steering this under x-ray guidance until it is positioned in the blood vessels close to the womb. Once in position, tiny plastic beads are injected through the catheter to lodge in the small arteries of the fibroids. Local anaesthetic and intravenous sedation are used but general anaesthesia is not routinely required.
Patients undergoing UFE usually stay overnight in hospital after the procedure but can return to full activity within about a week. Around 85% of women troubled by heavy menstrual bleeding from fibroids have a significant improvement in their symptoms and around 70% of those with pain, bowel or bladder symptoms are helped. Major complications are rare but include womb infections and premature menopause and careful post procedural monitoring is performed to pick up these problems as quickly as possible.
Further information is available at: http://www.bsir.org/_files/contentmanagement/uterine_fibroid_embolisation.pdf
Unfortunately UFE is not currently available for NHS patients in Bath although we hope this will shortly be the case. Currently arrangements can only be made for private patients.