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 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:

  • Are pregnant
  • Have possible pelvic cancer
  • Have an active, recent or chronic pelvic infection
  • Have a condition that affects your blood vessels (vascular disease)
  • Are allergic to contrast material containing iodine

Most fibroid sizes and locations can be treated with uterine artery embolization. However, extremely large fibroids can be so big that they cause complications and require another method to remove them.

Some fibroids that are primarily inside the uterus (pedunculated submucosal) may be expelled vaginally following the procedure. Finally, if the fibroids have already lost their blood supply (degenerated), uterine artery embolization won't provide any benefit.

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.

June 14, 2016
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