Non-invasive Magnetic Resonance Guided Focused Ultrasound Surgery For Uterine Fibroids

Magnetic Resonance guided Focused Ultrasound (MRgFUS) is an innovative and non-invasive method of treating symptomatic uterine fibroids. It combines two modalities high intensity ultrasound and Magnetic Resonance Imaging which enables the physician to see inside the body, locate accurately a tissue target, and treat the tissue using heat created by an ultrasound beam. Like using a magnifying glass to focus the sun's rays to create heat, a high energy ultrasound beam can be passed through the body and focused on a fibroid to create a small localized lesion of tissue destroyed by heat.

The procedure involves no incision and no anesthesia. The patient returns home the same day and is back to normal activities within 2-3 days.

How Does The Procedure Work?

The procedure will last 3-4 hours. Patients will be told to lie on their stomach on a patient table that fits into a MRI scanner. First, the doctor will identify the fibroid(s) on MR images and then focused ultrasound waves will be delivered to the fibroids. Throughout the process, the doctor controls and monitors the treatment.

How Long Has This Treatment Been Available?

So far, over 4500 women have been treated with MRgFUS treated worldwide. There are over 40 published scientific articles on MRgFUS and over 80% of women treated with this method report significant improvements in their symptoms 3 months after the treatment. Studies have also shown women to continue to report improvement for up to 2 years post treatment.

MRgFUS has been established as a safe and effective treatment for uterine fibroids. In October 2007, MRgFUS received a European CE mark for the treatment of women wishing to preserve their fertility. Fertility is a major consideration for patients needing treatment for their fibroids. Accumulating clinical data with over 54 pregnancies in women treated with MRgFUS has been encouraging and has shown that women are able to conceive and successfully deliver following treatment.

What Are The Advantages Of This Treatment Option?

  • It avoids the need for an anesthetic,
  • Can be performed as an outpatient procedure,
  • Has a short recovery time of 1-3 days,
  • Allows a much faster return to normal activities,
  • Spares the uterus and pregnancy post procedure
  • Is as effective as current alternatives in maintaining symptom relief over a three year follow-up period,
  • Has fewer adverse effects than alternatives.

Where Is This Treatment Available In The UK?

This treatment is available at the MR therapy centre at St Mary's' Hospital, Paddington, London.

As per recommendations by the Chief Medical Officer, Sir Liam Donaldson in 2005, the aim of MRgFUS is to provide women with a real, non-invasive, fertility friendly treatment option that will reduce the need for hysterectomies. Women suffering from the symptoms of fibroids should be encouraged to approach their GP's and Gynecologists and actively seek out non-invasive alternatives to surgical options.

The author of this article is - Dr. Sue Zaher, MBChB, DRCOG., Clinical Manager, MR Therapy Unit, St. Mary's Hospital, London


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