New non-invasive treatment for fibroids

April 5, 2008 10:59:13 AM PDT
Doctors at Duke University Medical Center are first in the state to perform a new non-invasive procedure to treat fibroids.Fibroids affect 1 in 4 women and can cause pain, and heavy bleeding. This new treatment doesn't involve surgery.

Without even an incision, in a matter of hours, Doctor Millie Behera, Director of Duke's Center for Fibroid Biology and Therapy in Durham, treated the growing and painful fibroids Bonnie Zeiters has dealt with for 8 years.

"I've dealt with this for so long." Said Zeiters. "And, it's just a relief its just finally over."

Fibroids are benign tumors that grow in the uterus. They caused Bonnie pain, bladder problems, and heavy menstrual bleeding-leading to anemia. "I just didn't feel like I had control over my life," said Zeiters.

Doctors in Virginia, where Zeiters lives, told her a myomectomy to surgically remove the fibroids or hysterectomy which removes the entire uterus and fibroids were her only options. But, through her own research, Zeiters discovered in January, Duke became the first medical center in North Carolina to offer a new non-invasive treatment called MRI-guided focused ultrasound. So, she headed to Durham to meet with Dr. Behera.

"The technology is based on the idea of using MRI to constantly image the fibroid and patient throughout the procedure,' said Behera. And, simultaneously the patient is lying on top of an ultrasound transducer."

The technology works by using more than 200 ultra sound beams that target a point of tissue in the fibroid. The beams heat that point of tissue destroying it while maintaining the healthy tissue around it.

"Our goal is to treat at least 50% of the fibroid to knock that much out of the fibroid," explained Behera. "After that, the body takes care of the rest."

Candidates for MRI-guided focused ultrasound are women who have less than 6 fibroids, are in good health and have completed their childbearing years.

Patients are sedated but, conscious during the procedure and have virtually no recovery time. Some patients report feeling warmth in the area being targeted and mild cramping, but, Zeiters didn't have any problems.

"The only thing that hurts right now is the pocket book because it's not covered by insurance yet," said Zeiters.

While she was on her own for paying for the treatment, doctors say some insurance companies do cover it. But, for Bonnie Zeiters living without fibroids or surgery is priceless.

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