Doctors cook up womb treatment

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The Independent Online
MICROWAVE TECHNOLOGYhas been adapted by doctors to provide a safe, quick, simple alternative to surgery.

Gynaecologists at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary used a microwave probe to treat women with heavy periods, employing the same principle as is used in kitchen microwaves. With the patient under general anaesthetic, the probe is inserted through the cervix and used to "paint" microwave energy over the whole surface of the inside of the womb, heating the tissue to 75C (167F). The microwaves "cook" the tissue to a depth of 6mm (two-tenths of an inch).

The results of the first controlled study of the technique, published in The Lancet, show it was just as effective as the standard surgical method, transcervical resection, in which strips of the womb lining are cut away. A year after treatment of 263 women, randomly allocated to receive either method, the researchers found both groups had similar results and were equally satisfied. However, the microwave method was easier to learn and quicker, at an average of 11 minutes compared with 15 minutes for the surgical procedure. The authors, Dr David Parkin, Kevin Cooper and Christine Bain, who developed the technique, say it is a "suitable alternative" to the standard method.

About 80,000 hysterectomies are carried out each year and heavy periods are one of the principal reasons for performing them but 40 per cent carried out for this reason are estimated to be unnecessary. The authors suggest that use of the microwave technique could save the NHS pounds 50m a year.