Rarely, major complications occur in women undergoing uterine artery embolization. The risk of complications from uterine artery embolization is about the same as those for surgical treatment of fibroids. These may include:

  • Infection. A degenerating fibroid can provide a site for bacterial growth and lead to infection of the uterus (endomyometritis). Many uterine infections can be treated with antibiotics, but in extreme cases, infection may require a hysterectomy.
  • Damage to other organs. Unintended embolization of another organ or tissue can occur, although it's not as high a risk as with surgery. Whether you have embolization or surgery, disruption of the ovarian blood supply is a possibility because the ovaries and uterus share some blood vessels. If you're nearing menopause (perimenopausal), such a disruption could lead to menopause — but that's rare if you're age 40 or younger.
  • Possible problems in future pregnancies. Many women have or continue healthy pregnancies after having uterine artery embolization. However, some evidence suggests pregnancy complications, including abnormalities of the placenta attaching to the uterus, may be increased after the procedure. If you want to have children, talk to your doctor about the risks of surgery and how uterine artery embolization might affect your fertility and future pregnancy.

Reasons to avoid this procedure

Avoid uterine artery embolization if you have:

  • A history of pelvic radiation
  • A history of kidney failure
  • Possible pelvic cancer
  • An active, recent or chronic pelvic infection
  • Poorly controlled diabetes
  • Inflammation of the blood vessels (vasculitis)
  • An untreated bleeding disorder
  • A severe allergy to contrast material containing iodine

Most fibroid sizes and locations can be treated with uterine artery embolization. Rarely a woman's uterus can be so big that it's difficult to treat with any method, and hysterectomy may be required.

Discuss the benefits and risks of uterine artery embolization with your obstetrician-gynecologist or an interventional radiologist — a doctor who uses imaging techniques to guide procedures that would be impossible with conventional surgery.

Jun. 04, 2013