NAPLES, Fla. — May is Women's Health Month. An OBGYN in Naples says fibroids impact up to 60 percent of all women. But there's a new procedure at NCH Healthcare System to treat them.
Dr. Holly Miller is with a Woman's Place in Naples, and said medical experts aren't sure why fibroids grow.
"They can grow in any direction, they can be sitting right in the middle of the uterus, they can be sitting in the body of the uterus, they can be hanging off on the outside of the uterus," she said.
Fibroids can cause a variety of symptoms.
"Including heavy menstrual bleeding, and pelvic pain. Depending on how big the fibroids are, there can be other symptoms such as trouble with urination, trouble with bowels, low back pain, maybe even pain with intercourse," Dr. Miller said.
Up until recently, the most widely available options to treat fibroids were either a hysterectomy — a procedure to remove the uterus — or what's called a myomectomy.
"In a traditional myomectomy, I have to make a cut on the uterus, pull the fibroid out, and then sew that uterus closed — either with one incision or multiple incisions, depending on how many fibroids I'm removing," Dr. Miller said.
That has a long recovery time. But Dr. Miller said now there is a new, faster option in Southwest Florida.
"Acessa is a laparoscopic surgical treatment of uterine fibroids. It is done as an outpatient procedure at the hospital," she said.
That means you walk into the hospital, undergo the procedure and are back home a few hours later.
"They can return to work in three to five days," she said.
Dr. Miller said Acessa is a laproscopic procedure.
"I make a five millimeter incision in the in the belly button — in the umbilicus — where I place a camera. I make a slightly larger incision of approximately 10 millimeters, where I insert an ultrasound. And so I'm doing live action ultrasound in the operating room so that I can find every single fibroid in the uterus," she said.
Once she finds one, through a small third incision in the abdomen, Dr. Miller deploys a needle into the fibroid.
"From the larger needle, seven very thin electrodes are deployed. The fibroid is then heated to 98 degrees Celsius, which then makes it self destruct," she said.
The fibroid then shrinks for up to six months after the surgery, improving a patient's symptoms.
"At the end of the procedure, we have three very small band aids, and that's what she goes home with," Dr. Miller said.
She said studies show that 94 percent of women are very satisfied with the procedure and would recommend it.
"My patients are telling me that they're having a significant improvement in pain and bleeding, even within that first few weeks after surgery," she said.
That's why Dr. Miller partnered with NCH Healthcare System: to bring this surgery to our area, and help the women of Southwest Florida.
"Some of my patients that I've operated on this year are women that have had fibroids for years, and knew that they could not take extensive time off of work to get them treated. And they were very excited that we could do this, get them taken care of," she said.
Dr. Miller said the Acessa procedure is also uterine preserving.
"So for women that are not ready to have a hysterectomy, they're not ready to lose their uterus, this is an option to keep the uterus for potential future use," she said.