A new device that vaporizes uterine fibroid tumors is as effective as the standard method of removing the tumors, but causes less bleeding, according to doctors who use it.
The VaporTrode first sections the tumor to allow the doctor to remove a sample for testing, then vaporizes the abnormal growth.
"This is like Darth Vader's wand -- you touch the tumor and it disappears right in front of your eyes," said Dr. Philip Brooks, a clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of California at Los Angeles Medical School.
The instrument makes for a faster operation than the current wire-loop method, which shaves off the tumor potato-peeler style, he said.
Fibroid tumors are non-cancerous tumors of the smooth muscle of the uterus. They generally occur in women between ages 30 and 50.
The VaporTrode electrode, produced by the Circon Corp. of Santa Barbara, Calif., uses 200 watts of power to remove the uterine growths. The technology also has been used to treat prostate tumors, according to the California doctor.
Doctors who want to use the vaporizing device must be specially trained, he added. "If you touch the wrong part of the uterus, you could perforate the uterus easily," Dr. Brooks said. "This is not for the faint of heart or for the beginner."
Although it is too early to know just how beneficial the new technology is, "anything that would be effective and minimize bleeding is going to be extremely attractive," said Dr. Elizabeth Connell, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta.
The VaporTrode eventually may have other gynecologic uses, "but we're not recommending it for anything right now other than what it was tested for," Dr. Brooks said.