Surgery without Knife: HIFU, A New Approach for Uterine Fibroids

  • 31 Aug 2020
  • 3 mins read

HIFU is short for high intensity focused ultrasound, a therapeutic system that uses focused ultrasound beams to generate localized heat to destroy tumors. While it is not a new technology, it has made waves in the medical industry in recent years and offered patients new treatment options for conditions in the uterus such as uterine fibroids and adenomyosis.

In this article, we speak to Dr. Peter Chew, Senior Obstetrics and Gynecology Consultant at Farrer Park Hospital, to understand how the non-invasive procedure works.

Understanding the Science behind HIFU

Unlike traditional procedures where patients have to go under the knife to remove growths in their uterus, HIFU is done with no skin puncture or incision.

Explaining how localized heat in HIFU works, Dr. Chew said: “The way heat is generated by the ultrasound beams is similar to using a magnifying glass to focus light from the sun.”

According to Dr. Chew, these focused ultrasound waves (also known as sonication), come in up to 100 degree Celsius. They are used to heat up fibroids in small portions. Tissue changes in fibroids are constantly monitored during the process and the process is repeated until most of the fibroids are burned and destroyed.

“Each sonication lasts for a few seconds before a rest period to allow the tissues to cool down. Depending on the size and number of fibroids, HIFU procedure can be completed between one to two hours,” added Dr. Chew.

Patients are awake during the procedure with local anesthesia administered. They will be monitored by HIFU-trained gynecologists and asked about the level of pain, heat on their abdominal skin, legs and buttock throughout the process. Patients will also be checked on their ability to move their legs.

Preparing Your Body for HIFU

Though non-invasive, HIFU is still a surgery nonetheless and the process can be physically and mentally taxing. Getting the right nutrition can help prep the body and make an impact on patients’ recovery.

It is also important for patients to consume a light diet low in vegetables and beans three days before treatment. Patients should also be on a liquid diet one day before treatment.

Other preoperative work patients should undergo includes:

  • No sex for three days prior to procedure
  • Ensure that IUD (if any) is removed
  • Full shaving from umbilical to the perineum region
  • Bowel preparation through enema

Post-treatment: What to Expect?

With HIFU being a non-invasive procedure, patients and their caregivers can look forward to low complication rates comparable to or less than those of key-hole surgeries. 

When asked if patients need to be hospitalized or be on long medical leave after the procedure, Dr. Chew said: “Patients can go back to normal activities quickly after the procedure,” he added, “but of course, it still varies from one patient to another.”

With that said, there are still rare complications that can occur with injuries to the bowels and bladders. However, chances are less than 0.1 percent.

“After treatment, there may be slight vaginal bleeding and some watery discharge but they are usually transient and would dissipate within a few days,” Dr. Chew explained.

“HIFU offers an alternative option for women who wants to conceive as integrity to the womb is maintained with reduced risks of uterine rupture,” he concluded.

To learn more, send us an enquiry here.

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Contributed by

Dr. Peter Chew
Senior Obstetrics and Gynecology Consultant
Farrer Park Hospital