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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 upper thigh. Then the doctor sent a solution through the catheter to prevent your fibroids from getting blood.

You can expect to feel better each day. But you may get tired quickly. You may need about 1 to 2 weeks to fully recover.

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 treatment.

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.
  • The first 24 hours after your procedure: Do not drive or operate equipment. You can walk around the house and do light activity, such as cooking.
  • Try to walk each day. Start 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 you feel unsteady, have someone walk with you.
  • Do not do strenuous exercise or hard activity for at least 1 to 2 weeks or until your doctor says this is okay.
  • If the catheter was placed in your groin: Do not lift any heavy objects (more than 4.5 kg or 10 lb.) for 3 days after your procedure. Avoid using stairs where possible for a couple of days. Take 1 step at a time, and always lead with the leg that did not have the catheter.
  • If the catheter was placed in your arm: Do not lift any heavy objects (more than 2.5 kg or 5 lb.) for 3 days after your procedure. Do not bend your wrist deeply. Be careful when using your wrist and hand to get into and out of a chair or bed. Avoid having your blood pressure checked or an intravenous (I.V.) started on the arm used during the procedure for 24 hours.

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 stopped taking aspirin or some other blood thinner, your doctor will tell you when to start taking it again.
  • 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 incision (the cut the doctor made). A dressing helps the incision heal and protects it.
  • You may have a closure device to help seal the incision. This will help reduce your time on bedrest after the procedure.
  • After 24 hours, if your doctor says it is okay, you may remove the dressing and take a shower. Pat the incision dry. Avoid creams, lotions, and ointments on the catheter site. Put on a new dressing every day until the incision is healed.
  • Do not soak the incision in a bath, hot tub, or swimming pool until it is completely healed (no longer has a scab).
  • Keep the procedure site clean and watch for bleeding. A small amount of blood (up to the size of a quarter) on the bandage can be normal.

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?

If you start bleeding more than is normal or have a fast-growing, painful lump at the procedure site, call 911 and do the following:

  1. Lie down and call for help (family or friend).
  2. Apply pressure using your fingers or fist at the procedure site. Hold this pressure for 20 minutes.
  3. If the bleeding stops—lie still and keep flat until emergency help arrives.
  4. If the bleeding does not stop—keep firm pressure to the procedure site until emergency help arrives.

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

  • You passed out (lost consciousness).
  • You have chest pain, are short of breath, or cough up blood.

Call your doctor or nurse advice 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.
    • 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.
  • You are bleeding from the area where the catheter was put in your artery.
  • You have a fast-growing, painful lump at the catheter site.

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

Where can you learn more?

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

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