Uterine Artery Embolization (UAE), also called Uterine Fibroid Embolization (UFE),
is an experimental surgery currently being promoted as an alternative to hysterectomy
or myomectomy as a treatment for uterine fibroids. This surgery uses a technique called
embolization: a mass of microspheres (tris-acryl gelatin) or polyvinyl alcohol (PVA)
material (an embolus) is injected into the uterine arteries in order to block the flow
of blood through those vessels. The microsphere gelatin or PVA remains permanently in
the uterine arteries. UAE attempts to shrink fibroids by cutting off their blood supply.
First, an incision is made in the groin. Another incision is then made in the femoral
artery. A catheter is inserted into the groin and pushed through the femoral artery, and
into the uterine artery, where 300 to 1200µm microspheres (tris-acryl gelatin) or 300 to
700µm polyvinyl alcohol (PVA) particles (plastic) are permanently lodged inside the uterine artery.
Women are told that as the blood supply to the uterine arteries and fibroids is stopped,
the fibroids will begin to shrink, become necrotic and die. However, not all fibroids do
shrink. Continued growth of fibroids four years after embolization has been reported.
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