By Muhammad Basir Roslan
KUALA LUMPUR: A non-invasive procedure to treat uterine fibroids known as High-Intensity Focused Ultrasound (HIFU) is set to change the treatment landscape for women nationwide.
According to Mahkota Medical Centre (MMC) Obstetrician and Gynaecologist Dr S. Selva, the cutting-edge treatment option with clinically proven positive outcomes, has a shorter recovery period and preserves the women’s fertility.
MMC, which is located in the heart of Melaka, is said to be the first medical facility in the country to introduce the HIFU technology for the treatment of uterine fibroids and adenomyosis. It is the flagship hospital of Health Management International Pte Ltd (HMI Group), a growing regional private healthcare provider with presence in Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia.
Dr Selva said HIFU is a therapeutic technique that offers excellent benefits to women suffering from gynaecological issues such as uterine fibroids and adenomyosis.
Uterine fibroids and adenomyosis are two common benign gynaecological tumours that deteriorate women’s quality of life during their reproductive years.
Dr Selva noted that unlike other significant procedures, patients do not need to wait for their uterus to heal entirely before trying to conceive.
“The non-invasive treatment is the best solution that mitigates the fertility impact and the risk of complications women may face in the typical treatments of fibroid and adenomyosis,” he told Bernama when contacted recently.
He said the HIFU technology uses focused sound energy to heat and destroy targeted tissues. It is being used to treat many medical conditions, such as renal stones, cataracts, neurological disorders, benign thyroid nodules, prostate diseases, solid tumours, and it is also used in palliative therapy. In gynaecology, the HIFU technology can be used to treat uterine fibroids, and adenomyosis.
Dr Selva said the HIFU technology offers a completely non-invasive approach for the ablation (shrinkage) of adenomyoma and an alternative to surgical removal of uterine fibroids.
This is because HIFU is a special treatment using a high-intensity ultrasound transducer that directs sound waves to a specific location, raising local temperature of tissues from 60-80 degrees Celsius, resulting in coagulative necrosis of the tissues.
“HIFU is performed with the guidance by either Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRgFUS) as the imaging modality or Ultrasound (USgHIFU), which uses ultrasound scan as the imaging modality to target treatment to a specific focal area in the tissue while avoiding damage to intervening tissues.
“One of the key advantages of USgHIFU over MRgFUS is that it can offer real-time imaging, which enables the doctor to look at the tissue while the procedure is done.
“It uses a larger and more powerful transducer, which shortens the duration and increases the efficacy of the treatment. It also offers greater accessibility to patient and flexibility in patient positioning, making patients feel more comfortable. Plus, it is also less costly,” he added.
As HIFU utilises a technology that is a non-invasive procedure, patients do not require general anaesthesia during the procedure and are able to walk-away scar-free.
The procedure also has the upper hand on recovery time when compared with surgeries such as myomectomy or hysterectomy. Women with the desire to conceive benefit the most from HIFU treatment because the procedure can precisely ablate the lesion, preserving the surrounding uterine muscles and tissues.
Dr Selva added, the HIFU technology also causes less scar formation in the uterus wall, and so the expansion of the uterus to accommodate pregnancy and the contractility during labour can be retained.
“HIFU procedure is a game-changer as it will be able to provide a solution that mitigates the scaring, and the fertility impact patients may face in typical treatments for fibroid and adenomyosis removal.
Additionally, this non-invasive state-of-the-art technology will also benefit patients with a short recovery duration, allowing them to return to their daily routine in no time.
“Ultrasound based HIFU treatment session ranges between 1 to 4 hours and in most cases, the treatment can be done in a single session. Only patients with multiple or large diameter fibroids, may require several sessions. It is also worthwhile to note that patients will not have any blood loss during the procedure, hence eliminating the need for blood transfusions.
“HIFU also reduces the risks of potential complications that may arise from surgeries to remove adenomyoma or uterine fibroids. Most importantly, patients who wish to get pregnant do not have to wait for their uterus to heal completely before trying to conceive,” he said.
“Another great news is, the patients can resume having a safe sexual intercourse after completion of the next menstrual cycle, as recent studies have shown successful pregnancy within months after HIFU treatment for fibroids either by natural pregnancy or assisted reproductive treatment,” he added.
Benefitting Medical Tourism Industry
Commenting on how the new HIFU treatment will impact Malaysia’s medical tourism growth in the near future, Group Chief Executive Officer of HMI Group Chin Wei Jia said, the HIFU treatment is a new innovative technology for women with gynaecological issues especially for those in Southeast Asia, as this treatment is also available in Singapore and Hong Kong.
“However, treatment costs would be higher than Malaysia. When international borders reopen and travel is permitted soon, we anticipate keen demand from patients across the region seeking the HIFU treatment at MMC due to the treatment benefits. This in turn would positively impact the tourism industry for Malaysia across a multitude of sectors, such as hospitality and services.
“Additionally, as an elite member of the Malaysia Healthcare Travel Council (MHTC), MMC is actively collaborating with MHTC to drive awareness on the availability of the HIFU treatment and its benefits to the neighbouring countries. This will further accelerate the growth of our medical tourism industry,” she added.
She said that as one of the medical centres that prioritises high-quality medical services, MMC is striving to find new ways to deliver improved outcomes for the best interest of the patients.
“The introduction of HIFU service actually brings us one step closer to enhancing our patients’ journey towards achieving greater outcome. Ultimately, we are committed to continue keeping up with the latest trends in the industry by bringing in many more state-of-the-art facilities to offer the finest care for our patients, this is our promise,” she said. – Bernama