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Uterine Artery Embolization Recovery Explained

Fibroid Specialist Dr. Michael Lalezarian answers common questions about uterine artery embolization recovery.
Uterine artery embolization recovery explained

Uterine artery embolization is the least invasive treatment option for women with uterine fibroids. One of the major advantages of uterine artery embolization is that it offers a shorter stay in the hospital and a much faster recovery time than invasive surgical approaches like hysterectomy and myomectomy. Still, many women have questions about uterine artery embolization recovery, how long it takes to return to normal life, what they can expect after the procedure, and if their recovery experience is typical.

In this article, we review the different phases of of uterine artery embolization recovery, and answer common questions related to each of them.

(1) Post-operative recovery immediately after the procedure
(2) Returning to work, exercise, and other normal activities
(3) Side effects and complications that can delay recovery
(4) Uterine artery embolization recovery time

Fibroid Specialist Dr. Lalezarian provides fibroid symptom relief in Los Angeles, California

Uterine Artery Embolization
in Los Angeles

ProFibroidMD is a leading provider of uterine artery embolization, the least invasive treatment option for uterine fibroid symptom relief. Our Fibroid Specialists have helped countless women overcome their fibroids and get back to their happy, healthy selves.
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Post-Operative Uterine Artery Embolization Recovery

Uterine artery embolization is a relatively quick procedure. A patient can expect to spend anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours on the table, with about an hour being the most typical duration. After the procedure, however, a patient can expect to spend at least 6 hours lying flat in post-operative recovery. This monitoring period is in place to look out for immediate post-operative complications, watch for puncture site bleeding, ease the patient out of sedation, and to gauge pain levels prior to sending the patient home.

It’s common for patients, especially those treated in outpatient centers, to go home on the same day as their procedure, but this isn’t always the case. Depending on the physician, treatment center, procedural outcome, or patient preference, the patient may be required to spend a night in the hospital for monitoring, IV fluid administration, and recovery.

Pain After Uterine Artery Embolization

Pain management is an important part of uterine artery embolization recovery. Some level of pain following the procedure is normal because uterine artery embolization works by blocking blood flow to the fibroids, and can therefore activate pain signals that respond to oxygen deficiency in the organ. Patients typically describe this as a cramping pain around the site of treatment that sets in as analgesics wear off and continues for a few days after the procedure. Pain typically lasts for 3-4 days, and less frequent cramping pain can occur for up to 2 weeks following the procedure.

Over the counter NSAIDS like ibuprofen are usually enough to manage cramping pain, but postoperative monitoring can help the physician decide if more intensive pain management is necessary. Additional pain control with oxycodone for the first 48 hours may be prescribed, along with a stool softener such as docusate sodium to avoid constipation from the medication. If needed, anti-nausea medication is also available.

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Woman recovering after uterine artery embolization procedure

Returning to Normal Activities After Uterine Artery Embolization

In general, patients are advised to keep their activity light while they recover from uterine artery embolization, but not to spend too much time in bed either. Multiple studies have looked at how long it takes women to make a full recovery after uterine artery embolization. In most studies, recovery time averages between 9 and 12 days,⁸⁻¹² but exact recovery time will vary from person to person. In general, women undergoing uterine artery embolization should plan for 1 to 2 weeks of recovery before returning to normal activities like work, intensive exercise, and sexual intercourse.

How Long Does it Take for Uterine Artery Embolization to Work

It’s important to understand that the effects of uterine artery embolization are not always instantaneous. After recovery, many women do report an immediate improvement in bleeding and pain symptoms, but the full benefits of embolization can take several weeks to set in as the fibroids continue to shrink over time. This is evident in bleeding patterns following treatment.

Bleeding after uterine fibroid embolization varies from person to person. Some women experience no extra bleeding outside of their normal menstrual cycle. For women that experienced heavy bleeding with their fibroids, cycles should become increasingly lighter in the months following the embolization procedure as the fibroids shrink. If uterine artery embolization is successful, women will re-establish a new baseline cycle after 4-6 months, which should be much lighter and closer to their normal cycle before fibroids.

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Uterine artery embolization procedure diagram

Side Effects & Complications that Can Delay Recovery After Uterine Artery Embolization

Side effects and procedure complications, though rare, can delay recovery if they occur. The most common side effects include: post-embolization syndrome (pain, nausea, mild fever, flu-like symptoms), hot flashes, vaginal discharge, fibroid expulsion, and hematoma formation (bruising). Less common side effects include UTI, urinary retention, urinary incontinence, thrombosis, thigh paresthesia, infection, and temporary amenorrhea (absence of menstruation). In most cases, these side effects are inconsequential and tend to resolve on their own within the first 30 days following the procedure.

Many doctors will prescribe post-procedural NSAIDS like ibuprofen that patients are required to take for the first 5 days following uterine artery embolization. Patients are also advised to take Tylenol for fevers if they’re able to.

Infection is perhaps the most frequently reported complication following uterine artery embolization. Fever, chills, and a foul-smelling vaginal discharge are potentially indicative of the uterus being infected. Patients that experience these symptoms are advised to seek immediate medical attention. A routine post-operative infection is usually treated with simple oral antibiotics, while a more severe infection may require hospitalization for IV administered fluids and antibiotics.

Uterine Artery Embolization Recovery Time

In the typical case, uterine artery embolization requires 6-8 hours in recovery immediately following the procedure, and then 1 to 2 weeks of recovery at home before returning to normal activities like work, exercise, and sexual intercourse. Depending on where the procedure takes place, your physician may choose to admit you for an overnight stay.

In either scenario, uterine artery embolization offers the fastest recovery time of any fibroid procedure. Hysterectomy and myomectomy are invasive surgical approaches that typically require 1 to 2 nights in the hospital and 4 to 6 weeks of recovery at home. For many women, faster recovery is one of several major benefits of uterine artery embolization over surgery.

If you have questions about your fibroid treatment options, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us at ProFibroidMD. We have dedicated fibroid treatment centers throughout Southern California, and we’re here to help you overcome your fibroids.

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More Resources
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Uterine artery embolization
Uterine Artery Embolization
Uterine artery embolization is a minimally-invasive procedure that we offer at ProFibroidMD to relieve heavy bleeding, pain, and other symptoms in patients with uterine fibroids. Learn more about our specialty procedure.
Fibroid Specialist in Los Angeles
Fibroid Specialist in Los Angeles
Learn more about Los Angeles Fibroid Specialist Dr. Michael Lalezarian.

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