Uterine Fibroid Embolization: Before Your Procedure

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Uterine fibroids

What is uterine fibroid embolization?

Uterine fibroid embolization is a treatment to destroy or shrink uterine fibroids, which are benign (non-cancerous) tumours of the uterine wall or muscle.

During the procedure, the doctor inserts a thin, flexible tube called a catheter into blood vessels in both of your upper thighs. The doctor sends tiny particles through the catheter. These particles prevent your fibroids from getting blood. Without blood, the fibroids shrink or die.

You will be awake during the procedure. You will be given medicine to help you relax and to help with pain. The treatment usually takes 1 to 3 hours.

Most women go home 6 to 24 hours after the treatment. You will probably need about 7 to 10 days to fully recover. You may have some pain for a few hours to a few days after the treatment as the fibroids shrink.

This treatment should decrease pain and heavy bleeding caused by fibroids. It may also prevent your fibroids from growing back. After the procedure, you will have less blood flow to your uterus. Because of this, pregnancy is not recommended after uterine fibroid embolization. Talk with your doctor about birth control options.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

What happens before the procedure?

Preparing for the procedure

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    Bring a list of questions to ask your doctors. It is important that you understand exactly what procedure is planned, the risks, benefits, and other options before your procedure.
  • Tell your doctors ALL the medicines and natural health products you take. Some of these can increase the risk of bleeding or interact with anesthesia. Your doctor will tell you which medicines to take or stop before your procedure.
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    If you take blood thinners, such as warfarin (Coumadin), clopidogrel (Plavix), or aspirin, be sure to talk to your doctor. He or she will tell you if you should stop taking these medicines before your procedure. Make sure that you understand exactly what your doctor wants you to do.
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    You may need to stop taking certain medicines a week or more before your procedure, so talk to your doctor as soon as you can.
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    Before your procedure, you may speak with an anesthesia provider to discuss your anesthetic options, including the risks, benefits, and alternatives to each. This may be on the phone or in person.

Taking care of yourself before the procedure

  • Build healthy habits into your life. Changes are best made several weeks before the procedure, since your body may react to sudden changes in your habits.
    • Stay as active as you can.
    • Eat a healthy diet.
    • Cut back or quit alcohol and tobacco.
  • If you have an advance care plan, let your doctor know. If you do not have one, you may want to prepare one so your doctor and loved ones know your health care wishes. Doctors recommend that everyone prepare these papers before a procedure, regardless of the type of procedure or condition.

Procedures can be stressful. This information will help you understand what you can expect. And it will help you safely prepare for your procedure.

What happens on the day of the procedure?

  • Follow the instructions exactly about when to stop eating and drinking, or your procedure may be cancelled. If your doctor has instructed you to take your medicines on the day of the procedure, please do so using only a sip of water.
  • Take a bath or shower before you come in for your procedure. Do not apply lotions, perfumes, deodorants, or nail polish.
  • Remove all jewellery, piercings, and contact lenses.
  • Leave your valuables at home.

At the hospital or surgery centre

  • Bring a picture ID.
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    A small tube (IV) may be placed in a vein, to give you fluids and medicine to help you relax.
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    You will be kept comfortable and safe by your anesthesia provider. You will get medicine to help you relax and to help with pain.
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    The procedure will take about 1 to 3 hours.
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    As you wake up in the recovery room, the nurse will check to be sure you are stable and comfortable. It is important for you to tell your doctor and nurse how you feel and ask questions about any concerns you may have.

Going home

  • You may need someone to drive you home.
  • For your safety, you should not drive until you are no longer taking pain medicine, and you can move and react easily.
  • Arrange for extra help at home after the procedure, especially if you live alone or provide care for another person.
  • You will be given more specific instructions about recovering from your procedure, including activity and when you may return to work.

When should you call your doctor?

  • You have questions or concerns.
  • You don't understand how to prepare for your procedure.
  • You become ill before the procedure (such as fever, flu, or a cold).
  • You need to reschedule or have changed your mind about having the procedure.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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