Uterine Artery Embolization (UAE)

Definition - What does Uterine Artery Embolization (UAE) mean?

Uterine artery embolization (UAE) is a process that blocks blood supply to the uterus in order to treat uterine fibroids. Uterine fibroids are non-cancerous growths that develop in the uterine lining, and grow into the uterine cavity. They may cause significant health complications and possibly impede fertility. A UAE can halt development of the fibroids, lessening the symptoms and supporting fertility. However the procedure does have some risks and may not be right for all women.

A uterine artery embolization may also be called a uterine fibroid embolization.

FertilitySmarts explains Uterine Artery Embolization (UAE)

Fibroids are relatively common among women of childbearing age. Many fibroids have no symptoms. However, certain fibroids in problematic locations, numbers, or size may incur:

  • Abnormal periods that are long or heavy
  • Severe cramping during periods
  • Bleeding in between periods
  • Frequent urination, bladder pressure
  • Abdominal pain
  • Miscarriage
  • Recurrent pregnancy loss (RPL)

As a result, some women may opt for a procedure to remove the fibroids.

The UAE procedure is completed by accessing the arteries, tubes that transport blood around the body. A long, thin tube, called a catheter, is inserted into the leg, and guided to the arteries surrounding the uterus. An alcohol based liquid is injected into the catheter and pumped into the arteries. The liquid causes the arteries to become clogged. This restricts blood flow to the fibroids in the uterus. By blocking off access to the blood, the fibroids essentially starve. This causes them to shrink and die off.

Other treatment options for fibroids include:

  • Laparoscopic myomectomy
  • Open myomectomy
  • Hysterectomy

The UAE is the least invasive method available to treat severe cases of fibroids. However, there are risks involved. A UAE is designed to reduce symptoms related to fibroids in pre-menopausal women who would like to avoid surgery. The procedure may not be appropriate for women still hoping to have children, or women with certain types of fibroids.

Risks of the UAE include:

  • Infection
  • Premature menopause
  • Scar tissue development in the uterus
  • Extended pain or discomfort
  • Amenorrhea (lack of menstrual period)
  • May inhibit or complicate future pregnancies.

The impact of the UAE on future pregnancies is unpredictable; women’s bodies react in different ways to the procedure. Successful pregnancy following a UAE is not guaranteed.

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