A new procedure to be offered in Craig will help some women avert hysterectomies and recover within days instead of months.
The outpatient procedure, called "endometrial ablation," can put a stop to excessive menstrual bleeding, or menorrhagia, which affects as many as one in five women.
The procedure can be a permanent solution to the condition, and it can be used instead of a hysterectomy, which is the removal of the uterus.
Whether a woman deals with menorrhagia two days a month, or half the days of her life, the impact on her quality of life can be unmerciful, said Dr. Michael Crane, a gynecologist at The Memorial Hospital, who is adding the procedure to his practice.
For some women, the condition is so severe that they may wake up in a pool of blood or lose a great amount of blood in an embarrassing public episode. Some may faint when getting out of bed. Menorrhagia removes many women from otherwise productive lives, Crane said.
Crane has been performing the procedure for about a decade before he came to TMH, but it was never available locally.
"This was on his list of procedures he wanted at the facility," said Dale Bergstrom, the director of surgery at TMH. Bergstrom researched the product and recommended that TMH purchase the NovaSure device, which he said is "the best system on the market right now."
A doctor performs the procedure by inserting a small wand into a woman's uterus. The wand contains a triangular mesh device that expands to fit the contours of the uterus. Then, electric energy flows through the device, heating the uterine tissue and permanently removing the lining of the uterus, called the endometrium. In most cases, the electricity only flows for about 90 seconds.
"It certainly serves very well for women for whom a hysterectomy might be a very big step, when their only problem is heavy bleeding," Crane said.
"As a woman, if there's another option besides a hysterectomy, I would want to know about it," said Pam Thompson, TMH's community relations director. "For a lot of women, a hysterectomy is their worst fear."
Some women miss six weeks of work after a hysterectomy, Crane said.
Women recovering from endometrial ablation rebound much sooner.
"For thermal ablation, recovery is exceedingly short," Crane said. "It's measured in days. Like maybe three."
One year after treatment, 80 percent of endometrial ablation patients are symptom free, Crane said.
The procedure is not for every woman with menorrhagia, however.
"This doesn't replace hysterectomies," Crane said.
Some women will still require a hysterectomy within a year of thermal ablation. Some won't even be candidates for the procedure.
Thirty to 40 percent of women will have a hysterectomy, Crane said. Endometrial ablation would be laudable if it removed 10 percent of women from that list. Even if only 4percent of women avoided hysterectomies, it would be important because "that's not a number, that's women's lives," Crane said.
Jeremy Browning can be reached at 824-7031 or firstname.lastname@example.org.