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Uterine Fibroid Embolization: What to Expect at Home

Uterine fibroids

Your Recovery

Uterine fibroid embolization is a procedure done to destroy or shrink uterine fibroids. Your doctor put a thin, flexible tube (catheter) into a blood vessel in your groin or arm. Then the doctor sent a solution through the catheter to prevent your fibroids from getting blood.

You can expect to feel better each day after the procedure. But you may get tired quickly.

You may have pain or cramps for several days after uterine fibroid embolization. But sometimes pain can last for a couple of weeks. You may also have mild nausea for several days. Some people have vaginal bleeding or greyish or brownish vaginal discharge for several weeks to months. These are all common side effects of the procedure. These symptoms usually get better in 1 to 2 weeks.

Your next few menstrual cycles may be heavier than normal. Some people pass fibroid tissue for several months after the procedure.

Make sure to avoid heavy lifting for about a week.

This care sheet gives you a general idea about how long it will take for you to recover. But each person recovers at a different pace. Follow the steps below to get better as quickly as possible.

How can you care for yourself at home?

Activity

  • Rest when you feel tired. Getting enough sleep will help you recover.
  • Do not do hard exercise, and do not lift, pull, or push anything heavy (more than 4.5 kg or 10 lb.) until your doctor says it is okay. This may be for a day or 2. You can walk around the house and do light activity, such as cooking.
  • Try to walk each day. Start out by walking a little more than you did the day before. Bit by bit, increase the amount you walk. Walking boosts blood flow and helps prevent pneumonia and constipation.
  • If the catheter was placed in your groin, try not to use stairs for the first couple of days.
  • If the catheter was placed in your arm, be careful of activities that can keep the blood from flowing well in your arm:
    • For 24 hours after the procedure: Be careful of repetitive arm or wrist movements (including computer work), bending your arm, or having your blood pressure checked or an intravenous (IV) start on your arm.
    • For 5 days after the procedure: Be careful not to bend your arm deeply, use the hand on that arm to get in and out of a chair or bed. Don’t use this arm to lift, carry, or push anything heavier than 2 kg (5 lb.).
  • For 1 week, avoid lifting anything that would make you strain. This may include a child, heavy grocery bags and milk containers, a heavy briefcase or backpack, cat litter or dog food bags, or a vacuum cleaner.
  • For 4 weeks, avoid strenuous activities, such as biking, jogging, weightlifting, and aerobic exercise.
  • You may shower. Do not take a bath for a few days or until your doctor tells you it is okay.
  • You may have some vaginal bleeding. Wear sanitary pads if needed. Do not douche or use tampons.
  • Ask your doctor when you can drive again.
  • You will probably need to take 1 week off work. It depends on the type of work you do and how you feel.
  • Your doctor will tell you when you can have sex again.

Diet

  • You can eat your normal diet. If your stomach is upset, try bland, low-fat foods like plain rice, broiled chicken, toast, and yogurt.
  • Drink plenty of fluids (unless your doctor tells you not to).
  • You may notice that your bowel movements are not regular right after your surgery. This is common. Try to avoid constipation and straining with bowel movements. You may want to take a fibre supplement every day. If you have not had a bowel movement after a couple of days, ask your doctor about taking a mild laxative.

Medicines

  • Your doctor will tell you if and when you can restart your medicines. You will also get instructions about taking any new medicines.
  • If you take aspirin or some other blood thinner, ask your doctor if and when to start taking it again. Make sure that you understand exactly what your doctor wants you to do.
  • Be safe with medicines. Take pain medicines exactly as directed.
    • If the doctor gave you a prescription medicine for pain, take it as prescribed.
    • If you are not taking a prescription pain medicine, ask your doctor if you can take an over-the-counter medicine.
  • If you think your pain medicine is making you sick to your stomach:
    • Take your medicine after meals (unless your doctor tells you not to).
    • Ask your doctor for a different pain medicine.
  • If your doctor prescribed antibiotics, take them as directed. Do not stop taking them just because you feel better. You need to take the full course of antibiotics.

Other instructions

  • Wear loose, comfortable clothing and avoid anything that puts pressure on your belly for a few days.
  • You may want to use a heating pad on your belly to help with pain.

Care of the puncture site

  • You will have a dressing or bandage over the puncture site (where the catheter was put in). A dressing helps the site heal and protects it.
  • Keep the area clean and dry. Keep it covered with a dressing for the first 2 to 3 days, or until your doctor says you can take it off. After the doctor says it is okay to take off the dressing, wash the area daily with warm, soapy water, and pat it dry. Don't use hydrogen peroxide or alcohol, which can slow healing. You may cover the area with a gauze bandage if it weeps or rubs against clothing. Change the bandage every day.
  • Put ice or a cold pack on the area for 10 to 20 minutes at a time to help with soreness or swelling. Put a thin cloth between the ice and your skin. Do this for the first few days only. If the area stays sore for more than a few days, talk to your doctor or nurse.
  • You may shower 48 hours after the procedure if your doctor says it is okay. Pat the puncture site dry. Don’t put creams, lotions, and ointments on the puncture site.
  • Do not soak the puncture site in a bath, hot tub, or swimming pool until it is completely healed (no longer has a scab).
  • Watch for bleeding from the site. A small amount of blood (up to the size of a quarter) on the bandage can be normal.
  • If you start bleeding more than this or have a fast-growing, painful lump at the puncture site, call 911 and do the following:
    • Lie down and call a friend or family member to help you.
    • Apply pressure using your fingers or fist at the puncture site. Hold this pressure for 20 minutes.
    • If the bleeding stops—lie still until emergency help arrives.
    • If the bleeding does not stop—keep firm pressure to the puncture site until emergency help arrives.

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 advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) 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.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You passed out (lost consciousness).
  • You have severe trouble breathing.
  • You have chest pain, are short of breath, or cough up blood.
  • You are bleeding from the area where the catheter was put in your artery.
  • You have a fast-growing, painful lump at the puncture site.

Call your doctor or nurse call line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have bright red vaginal bleeding that soaks one or more pads in an hour, or you have large clots.
  • You are sick to your stomach or cannot drink fluids.
  • You have vaginal discharge that has increased in amount or smells bad.
  • You have signs of infection, such as:
    • Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness.
    • Red streaks leading from the puncture site.
    • Pus draining from the puncture site.
    • A fever.
  • You have signs of a blood clot in your leg (called a deep vein thrombosis), such as:
    • Pain in your calf, back of the knee, thigh, or groin.
    • Redness and swelling in your leg or groin.
  • You have pain that does not get better after you take pain medicine.

Watch closely for any changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if you have any problems.

Where can you learn more?

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

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