Given what we now know about the risks of power morcellation, it should come as no surprise that the search for alternative methods for uterine fibroid removal has been a fairly urgent one. No surgeon wants to replace a minimally invasive surgical technique with one that requires more recovery time and increases the patient’s risk of infection. But, given the alterative – the risk of spreading an as yet undiagnosed case of uterine cancer throughout the patient’s abdomen – general surgery may very well be the better of the options.
Doctors in three Philadelphia-area hospitals are testing a new device, however, that may be even less invasive than a laparoscopically-inserted power morcellator. It’s called Sonata.
The name is an acronym that stands for sonography-guided transcervical ablation and it’s currently in use at Cooper University Hospital, Drexel, and Christiana Care Health System. It works by using heat generated by radio energy to heat uterine fibroids to the point of tissue death. The tissue is then reabsorbed back into the patient’s body, thus negating the need for removal, as is the case with morcellation. And, since it’s based on the tactical application of high amounts of heat, there’s no cutting, which should mean less risk of spreading potentially cancerous but undiagnosed cells.
Philly.com reports that Sonata is being tested at 26 other hospitals in the country and it is a welcome addition to the arsenal of tools available to treat a condition that affects up to 80 percent of women by the time they reach 50. While some cases of uterine fibroids are so benign that they warrant no action whatsoever, others can cause significant and life altering damage including extreme cramps and bleeding, complications in childbirth, and can, at times, render the woman infertile.
While 80 percent of women may develop uterine fibroids, a quarter of those cases will require treatment of some kind. And, while there are various treatments available, power morcellation became a very popular treatment option very quickly.
As time went on, however, a link began to emerge between power morcellators and the rapid upstaging of as-yet undiagnosed uterine cancer. Thanks to the work of Drs. Hooman Noorchashm and Amy Reed, esteemed doctors and also a husband and wife dealing with the reality of morcellator-upstaged uterine cancer, the truth behind the devices has begun to emerge.
At this point, Congress has called for hearings to explore banning the devices and the FBI launched a criminal probe into what the device manufacturers knew about the cancer risks, and when they knew it.
The treatment options for millions of women hinge on how Sonata performs in these initial trials. Described by one Drexel professor and gynecologist as “probably the most minimally invasive surgical procedure you can do,” it’s seemingly off to a strong start.