Uterine artery embolization (UAE) is a procedure to treat uterine fibroids without surgery. Uterine fibroids are noncancerous (benign) tumors that develop in the uterus (womb). This article tells you what you need to take care of yourself after the procedure.
When You're in the Hospital
You had uterine artery embolization. UAE is a procedure to treat fibroids using radiology instead of surgery. During the procedure, the blood supply of the fibroids was blocked. This caused them to shrink. The procedure took about 1 to 3 hours.
You were given a sedative and local pain medicine (anesthetic). An interventional radiologist made a 1/4-inch (0.64 centimeters)-long cut in your skin over your groin. A catheter (a thin tube) was put into the femoral artery at the top of your leg. The radiologist then threaded the catheter into the artery that supplies blood to your uterus (uterine artery).
Small plastic or gelatin particles were injected into the blood vessels that carry blood to the fibroids. These particles block the blood supply to the fibroids. Without this blood supply, the fibroids will shrink and then die.
What to Expect at Home
You may have a low-grade fever and symptoms for about a week after the procedure. A small bruise where the catheter was inserted is also normal. You may also have moderate to strong cramping pain for 1 to 2 weeks after the procedure. Your health care provider will give you a prescription for pain medicine.
Most women need 1 to 2 weeks to recover after UAE before returning to work. It may take 2 to 3 months for your fibroids to shrink enough for symptoms to decrease and your menstrual cycle return to normal. The fibroids may continue to shrink during the next year.
Take it easy when you return home.
- Move around slowly, only for brief periods when you first get home.
- Avoid strenuous activity like housework, yard work, and lifting children for at least 2 days. You should be able to return to your normal, light activities in 1 week.
- Ask your provider how long you should wait before having sexual activity. It may be about a month.
- Do not drive for 24 hours after you get home.
Try using warm compresses or a heating pad for pelvic pain. Take your pain medicine the way your provider told you. Make sure you have a good supply of sanitary pads at home. Ask your provider how long you should avoid using tampons or douching.
You may resume a normal, healthy diet when you get home.
- Drink 8 to 10 cups (2 to 2.5 liters) of water or unsweetened juice a day.
- Try eating foods that contain a lot of iron while you are bleeding.
- Eat high-fiber foods to avoid getting constipated. Your pain medicine and being inactive can cause constipation.
You may take showers when you get home.
Do not take tub baths, soak in a hot tub, or go swimming for 5 days.
Follow up with your provider to schedule recommended pelvic ultrasounds and exams.
When to Call Your Health Care Provider
Contact your provider if you have:
- Severe pain that your pain medicine is not controlling
- Fever higher than 101°F (38.3°C)
- Nausea or vomiting
- Bleeding where the catheter was inserted
- Any unusual pain where the catheter was inserted or in the leg where the catheter was placed
- Changes in color or temperature of either leg
Uterine fibroid embolization - discharge; UFE - discharge; UAE - discharge
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Manyonda I, Belli AM, Lumsden MA, et al. Uterine-artery embolization or myomectomy for uterine fibroids. N Engl J Med. 2020;383(5):440-451. PMID: 32726530 pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32726530/.
Moss JG, Yadavali RP, Kasthuri RS. Vascular genitourinary tract interventions. In: Adam A, Dixon AK, Gillard JH, Schaefer-Prokop CM, eds. Grainger & Allison's Diagnostic Radiology. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2021:chap 84.
Spies JB. Uterine fibroid embolization. In: Mauro MA, Murphy KPJ, Thomson KR, Venbrux AC, Morgan RA, eds. Image-Guided Interventions. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2021:chap 43.
Review Date 11/21/2022
Updated by: LaQuita Martinez, MD, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Emory Johns Creek Hospital, Alpharetta, GA. Also reviewed by David C. Dugdale, MD, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.