Radiofrequency ablation (RFA) is a treatment option for fibroids

Radiofrequency ablation (RFA) is a treatment option for fibroids

Medically reviewed by Linda Bradley, MD

What are uterine fibroids?

Uterine fibroids are benign growths of the uterus.

Fibroids can be found:

  • Swelling from inside the uterus (submucosal)

  • In the muscular wall of the uterus (myometrium)

  • Extending outside the uterus (serous)

About 8 out of 10 women will have fibroids at some point in their lives.

Most women with fibroids have no symptoms and do not need treatment. But women who need treatment have medical and surgical options. One type of surgical treatment is radiofrequency ablation.

What is RFA?

RFA is a surgical procedure performed under general anesthesia that uses heat to destroy fibroid tissue.

Laparoscopic RFA is a minimally invasive procedure done with a laparoscope, a thin instrument with a camera on the end. This allows the doctor to see the uterus and find out where the fibroids are.

The doctor makes two small cuts in the navel and lower stomach. Then they insert small tools to shrink the fibroids using heat and energy (ablation).

Where does RFA take place and who does it?

An ob-gyn usually performs the procedure as an outpatient procedure, and patients generally go home within a couple of hours of the surgery.

Who are the best candidates for RFA?

RFA is recommended for people with symptoms who want to keep their uterus.

People with “bulk symptoms,” which make the uterus look bigger, are the best candidates.

Mass symptoms include:

  • Bladder pressure

  • Frequent urination or inability to urinate

  • Lumbar back pain

  • Constipation

  • Heavy menstrual bleeding

How can you prepare for RFA?

  • Ask a surgeon how often they perform these types of surgeries. Try to find one who often performs gynecological surgery.

  • Take a biopsy before RFA.

  • If advised, do an ultrasound or MRI before RFA.

  • Make sure your Pap and HPV tests are up to date.

  • Make sure you are not pregnant.

  • If you have an IUD (intrauterine device), have it removed before surgery.

What can you expect while recovering from RFA?

You may feel ready to return to work and activities within 4-7 days.

For the first few days after surgery, you may experience:

  • Extreme tiredness

  • Fever

  • Symptoms of urinary tract infection (UTI).

  • Little appetite

  • Low energy

  • Ache

You shouldn’t put anything in your vagina for two weeks after surgery.

Many patients find RFA to be effective in eliminating symptoms within 3-6 months.

What are the risks of RFA?

All surgical procedures carry some risk of complications from anesthesia, as well as the risk of infection, blood clots, and bleeding.

Laparoscopic RFA is a low-risk procedure. But risks can include:

  • Injury to the bladder, bowel, or other organs near the uterus

  • Cramps and vaginal discharge after surgery

  • New fibroids appearing and needing treatment

  • Possible complications in future pregnancies

This resource was created with support from Hologic.

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