This is a non-surgical procedure to reduce the size of fibroids and to relieve a patient’s symptoms; the fibroids can even completely disappear as a result of the procedure. It involves inserting a catheter into the artery through the crease in the groin area. The catheter is then pushed upwards and into one or both of the arteries which supply blood to the womb. Dye is then injected which shows up which blood vessels are supplying the fibroids; the catheter can then move into these smaller vessels in order to release a special fluid. The fluid contains lots of tiny plastic particles (which have been used in medical practice for many years and are regarded as safe) and these create a blockage to starve the fibroid of blood. Without a blood supply, the fibroids should shrink over time.
There is no surgery required (no incisions are made) but a local anaesthetic will be used to numb the area where the catheter enters. However, patients should expect to experience some post-operative pain and for that reason will usually need to remain in hospital overnight. Upon discharge from hospital, any discomfort can be managed using painkilling medication. Some women may also experience some vaginal discharge as the fibroids break down and occasionally a fibroid will be spontaneously expelled.
It is estimated that around 85-90 per cent of women will experience relief from their symptoms following a fibroid embolisation. However, it is not currently recommended as a treatment to restore fertility in women or for those who want to become pregnant in the future.