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Thursday, 26 September, 2002, 23:00 GMT 00:00 UK
Treatment hope for fibroids
The procedure eliminates the need for surgery
The procedure eliminates the need for surgery
Women who have fibroids may soon be able to choose to have laser treatment instead of surgery.

In the UK last year two thirds of the 47,000 hysterectomies carried out were on women who had fibroids.

The laser treatment, developed by researchers from St Mary's Hospital, London, and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, allows women to be treated under anaesthetic as outpatients.

Around a quarter of women have fibroids, which are benign fibrous tumours, in their wombs.


We are encouraged by our results so far

Dr Wady Gedroyc, St Mary's Hospital
Many will not suffer any symptoms, although others will experience heavy or prolonged periods and pain.

But women can experience fertility problems or miscarriages because of the problem.

There are already ways of treating fibroids which do not involve surgery.

Zapping

But the St Mary's team say their technique is different because patients can be treated as outpatients instead of having to stay overnight, and do not have to have a general anaesthetic.

Their method uses a laser guided by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

Four fine needles are inserted through the skin under local anaesthetic.

Using thermal images provided by the MRI every three seconds, doctors are able to trace the progress of the needles.

Laser fibres are inserted into the needles and a laser is used to "zap" the fibroid with thermal energy.

When the image turns from blue to green doctors know the optimum temperature of 55C has been reached.

This allows doctors to give as much treatment as possible while not damaging the surrounding tissue.

'Encouraging'

Sixty-six women, aged between 34 and 55, have had the treatment so far.

MRI scans of 47 women three months after the treatment showed an average reduction in the fibroid volume of almost a third.

Twenty-four women have received one-year follow up MRI scans, which showed an average reduction in size of 41%.

None of the 66 patients who have had the treatment needed readmission to hospital, and only needed painkillers to take home.

Three needed antibiotics for urinary tract infections and two had minor skin burns.

Eight of the women who had complained of heavy or prolonged periods experienced less blood loss three months after the treatment.

In a questionnaire, 80% of the women said they would recommend it to a friend with similar problems.

Fertility

Dr Wady Gedroyc, consultant radiologist and head of the Department of Interventional Magnetic Resonance Imaging at St Mary's, said: "This is a limited study and we are still recruiting patients.

"But we are encouraged from our results so far and believe this approach has the potential to be a reasonable future alternative to traditional surgery in selected patients."

She added: "At present we mostly treated women who have completed their families but wished to avoid hysterectomy, but we're confident that this is a treatment that we will also be able to offer women who wish to preserve their fertility."

Mr Peter O'Donovan, president of the British Society for Gynaecological Endoscopy, told BBC News Online the research was interesting.

"The results are promising. But there are other techniques which don't involve hysterectomy which have been validated by further studies."

He said he would also be cautious about treating women as outpatients because the aftermath of non-invasive treatments, as the fibroid tissue dies, can be very painful.

The research is published in the journal Human Reproduction.

See also:

24 Nov 99 | Health
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14 May 02 | Health
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