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Health advisers support 'quickie hysterectomy'.

Byline: Lyndsay Moss

A simple technique that could save thousands of women the pain and misery of a hysterectomy was yesterday given the backing of Government health advisers.

The National Institute for Clinical Excellence (Nice) said there was evidence to support the safety and effectiveness of microwave endometrial ablation (MEA) -sometimes referred to as the three-minute hysterectomy.

The guidance issued by Nice now means that more women could be offered the treatment across the NHS in England and Wales.

The technique involves the use of a hand-held 'wand' that emits low-powered microwaves to remove the lining of the womb to treat women suffering from heavy periods.

Such women can currently be offered hormone treatment, which is often ineffective, or another procedure where the lining of the womb is removed using a wire loop, which can cause complications.

Many end up being given a hysterectomy to treat the problem, meaning a painful recovery of up to two months.

But the new treatment, pioneered by the company Microsulis, means many patients can go back to work or get on with normal family life on the same day.

It has been estimated that it could save the NHS up to pounds 30 million a year and leave more hospital beds free for others.

Nice also backed the use of balloon thermal endometrial ablation -a technique that uses a heated balloon to destroy the lining of the uterus.

Nice guidance noted that studies had found that between 70 per cent and 80 per cent of women undergoing MEA were satisfied and 95 per cent had returned to normal activities within three weeks. On the subject of safety, the guidance stated: 'The evidence highlighted a number of complications that occurred, including perforation of the uterus, minor secondary haemorrhage and burning of the vagina, cervix and small bowel.'

Nice said that serious complications after the procedure were uncommon -less than 1 per cent.

The advisory body is expected to issue guidance on the cost effectiveness of the treatment by the end of the year.

Andrew Dillon, Nice chief executive, said: 'This work programme focusses on considering new procedures and providing guidance on whether they are safe enough and work well enough for use in the NHS.

'Today's guidance covers two gynaecological procedures where we have been advised that the data appears adequate to support their use.'

Around 60,000 hysterectomies are carried out in the UK each year, half of which are to treat heavy menstrual bleeding.

Professor Bill Dunlop, president of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, welcomed the new guidance.

'The use of these techniques may, in some cases, provide a suitable alternative to more drastic surgery in the treatment of women suffering menorrhagia (heavy menstrual periods) and avoid the need for a hysterectomy.

'The RCOG published its own clinical guidelines on the treatment of menorrhagia in the late 1990s.

'The implementation of these has already resulted in a significant reduction in the hysterectomy rate.

'We look forward to the forthcoming publication of Nice's clinical guideline on hysterectomy and alternative surgical treatments for menorrhagia and other conditions, and hope this will further improve the care and treatment of women,' he said.
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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Aug 28, 2003
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