What is UFE?
A UFE (Uterine Fibroid Embolization) is a minimally invasive procedure. It blocks blood flow to fibroids in the uterus. The doctor gets into your arteries by placing a catheter (a long tube) into a large artery in your groin or wrist. Contrast dye visible to an x-ray machine is injected into the arteries. X-rays help guide the catheter to the arteries feeding the fibroids where they are blocked (embolized). Blocking blood flow to the fibroids makes them shrink. After about three months your fibroid related symptoms like heavy menstrual bleeding and pain will get better.
How can you care for yourself at home?
This care sheet gives you a general idea about how long it will take to recover. Each person recovers at a different speed.
You had local anesthesia (a shot to numb the area). You may feel some pain and discomfort as it wears off.
You were given a sedative to help you relax and pain medication to ease pain. It is usually given in a vein (by IV). Common side effects from sedation include:
- Feeling sleepy – your doctors and nurses will make sure you are not too sleepy to go home.
- Nausea and vomiting – this usually does not last long. It can be treated with over-the-counter medication. Read and follow all instructions on the label.
For the next 24 hours please AVOID:
- Alcoholic beverages;
- Making important personal, business, and legal decisions;
- Driving, operating heavy machinery or doing anything that requires coordination and balance.
Medications and Other Instructions
- You may feel a moderate to severe level of cramping pelvic pain over the next few days. Our goal is to treat your pain safely. Sometimes, pain may not go away completely. We will do our best to help you feel better.
- You can expect to have irregular vaginal bleeding and pass clots, tissue and discharge fluid during the following weeks to months as the fibroids go away. Your next 2-3 menstrual cycles may be irregular.
- You may have flu-like symptoms such as tiredness, mild nausea, poor appetite, a low grade fever (less than 101.5°F or 38°C), night sweats and/or chills for 1-2 weeks. These symptoms should improve after 4 to 5 days.
You can eat and drink fluids as tolerated. Start with clear liquids and work up to solid foods. Drink plenty of fluids unless your doctor tells you otherwise. Extra fluids will help flush the contrast dye from your body.
- Do not lift anything heavier than 5 pounds for the first 3 days after the procedure.
- Avoid strenuous activities and heavy lifting for 1 week.
- Limit climbing stairs today and tomorrow if the puncture site was in your groin.
- Rest when you feel tired, especially for the first 48 hours. Getting enough sleep will help you recover.
- You can go back to normal activities as you feel up to it. Start slowly and listen to your body, do not overdo it. Most people are ready to return to work 7 to 10 days after the procedure if not sooner.
- You can drive 2 days after the procedure if you are not taking any narcotic medication.
- You can shower 24 hours after your procedure.
Caring for the puncture site
- You may have a small amount of bruising at the puncture site (where the catheter entered your skin). This is normal and should go away over the next several days.
- Remove the bandage after 24 hours.
- Gently clean the puncture site and the skin around it with soap and water. Do not use hydrogen peroxide or alcohol, which may slow healing.
- Gently pat the puncture site dry. Apply new gauze and tape or a Band-Aid.
- Change the bandage and clean the puncture site every day until it has healed completely (usually 2-3 days).
- Do not use any lotion or powder near the puncture site.
- Do not take a bath or swim until it has healed completely.
- There should be no or very minimal bleeding from the puncture site.
- If you had a groin puncture and notice bleeding, lie down. Apply direct pressure to the area for 20 minutes. You must also notify the Interventional Radiologist right away.
Our goal is to treat your pain safely. Sometimes, pain may not go away completely. We will do our best to help you feel better. Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label. If you take Glucophage (metformin), do NOT take it for 2 days after the procedure.
- Ketorolac (Toradol®) – This is an NSAID pain medication. Take one dose every 6 hours during the day and at night for the first 2-3 days to prevent the pain from getting too bad. Take it with food as it may upset your stomach.
- Oxycodone – This is an opioid pain medication. Take at bedtime the first 2 nights so you do not wake up with pain. Then take as needed only if you are still having pain after taking Toradol. Oxycodone causes constipation so you need to take a stool softener while you are taking this medication.
- Acetaminophen (Tylenol®) – This is a medication for mild pain and/or low grade fever (less than 101.5°F or 38°C). You can take this as needed while you are taking the oxycodone and Toradol if you are still having pain. You can alternate oxycodone and Tylenol between doses of Toradol.
- Ibuprofen (Advil®/Motrin®), or naproxen (Aleve®) – These are NSAID pain medications that may be taken for mild pain or low grade fever (less than 101.5°F or 38°C). Do NOT take NSAID pain medications if you are taking Toradol because it is also an NSAID. Some women find that ibuprofen or naproxen work better for them personally than Toradol. If so, you can stop taking the Toradol and replace it with ibuprofen or naproxen. Take it with food as it may upset your stomach.
- Ducosate Sodium (Colace®) – This is a stool softener. It is available at all major pharmacies without a prescription. Take it twice a day while taking oxycodone or if you were prescribed Zofran for nausea.
Follow up care
- Make a follow-up appointment with Interventional Radiology for 3 months after your procedure date.
- The doctor who performed your UFE may order an MRI 6 months after the procedure. This is to see how well the treatment worked.
- Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It is also a good idea to know your test results and keep an up-to-date list of the medications you take.
When should you call for help?
Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:
- You pass out (lose consciousness).
- You have uncontrolled bleeding from the puncture site.
Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if you have:
- Very bad pain that does not get better with medication.
- Very bad vaginal bleeding
- Foul smelling vaginal discharge (fluid)
- If you had a radial or wrist puncture: numbness, tingling or trouble moving your hand
- Increasing weakness or dizziness.
- Signs of infection such as:
- Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness around the puncture site.
- Pus draining or red streaks leading from the puncture site.
- A fever greater than 101.5°F (38°C) that does not go down with over-the-counter medications and lasts longer than 24 hours; chills, or body aches.
Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:
- You do not get better as expected.