Advanced therapy for uterine fibroids helps women get back their lives
In January 2005, Marianne Dubresson of Doylestown, PA, took the trip of a lifetime. During an eight-day adventure in Costa Rica, Dubresson hiked 25 miles through the jungle, rappelled behind waterfalls, rode horses and body surfed. Amazingly, Dubresson did all of this just one week after treatment for a uterine fibroid
— a benign tumor that caused her disabling pain and bleeding.
Dubresson learned she had the fibroid four years ago. "It didn't cause any symptoms so I wasn't too worried about it," says Dubresson. "It wasn't until last year — when it had grown to the size of a grapefruit — that severe pain and bleeding developed."
In fact, Dubresson's symptoms left her so "woozy and weak" that she would have to leave work and go home to rest. Her gynecologist laid out her treatment options — hysterectomy
or uterine fibroid embolization — but both required recuperation times that didn't appeal to her. She wanted something with a faster recovery that would allow her to take her dream trip to Costa Rica. "With a little online research, I found ExAblate at Virtua Health in South Jersey," says Dubresson.
A revolutionary new treatment
ExAblate is a new non-invasive treatment that requires no incision and Virtua Health is the only healthcare provider in the region and one of the first in the nation to offer it. Until now, there were only medical or surgical treatments available to relieve symptoms. ExAblate represents a remarkable non-surgical breakthrough that Dubresson calls "history in the making."
Paul Curtis, MD
, Virtua Health interventional radiologist, is one of the first physicians in the nation who has been certified to perform uterine fibroid ablation with ExAblate. He explains how this new technology works: "The patient lies on her stomach on a special table in a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machine. Inside the table is a device that delivers focused ultrasound beams to the fibroid. Using MRI for visual guidance, a treatment area is plotted and small spots of the fibroid are systematically targeted with ultrasound beams until the entire area has been treated. The beams produce targeted heat to destroy the fibroid without affecting the healthy tissue surrounding it," says Dr. Curtis. "With each round of ultrasound, patients may feel a few seconds of mild cramping, but it's easily controlled with light sedation."
Unlike the six- to eight-week recuperation period for traditional procedures, women treated with ExAblate recover in only one to two days and have less discomfort because there is no incision. Dubresson was amazed by her quick recovery: "I went back to work the next day and left for Costa Rica just one week after the procedure."
The recovery may be fast; however, symptom relief takes a little longer. Studies show that most women who undergo the ExAblate procedure experience symptom relief within three to six months. Remarkably, Dubresson started feeling results in just one month: "Already, my period is a little lighter, doesn't last as long, and the cramps have improved. It's amazing," she says.
The future of focused ultrasound
Magnetic resonance guided focused ultrasound technology, like ExAblate, has generated a great deal of interest for its potential application in the treatment of tumors of the breast, liver and prostate. These applications are being evaluated for clinical trials and submission for review and approval by the FDA.
Meet the physician
Paul Curtis, MD
, received his medical degree from Hahnemann University School of Medicine, and completed a residency in radiology and a fellowship in interventional radiology at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. He started the interventional radiology program at Virtua Health in 1983. Dr. Curtis was the first interventional radiologist in South Jersey to perform uterine artery embolization and magnetic-resonance-guided, focused ultrasound surgery.