*…says non-invasive HIFU procedure now preferred method of treatment
By Sola Ogundipe
Nigerian women diagnosed with uterine fibroids have been urged to seek treatment that is tailored for their individual needs rather than rush into surgery, as there is no one-size-fits all treatment for the uterine fibroids which affect more than 50 percent of women of reproductive age.
The Managing Director, Nordica Fibroid Care Centre, Lagos, Dr Abayomi Ajayi, said women diagnosed with uterine fibroids should look out for individualised best treatment options.
Ajayi who said it is not every fibroid that needs to be removed insisted that it is important to let people know that there are ways of removing fibroids besides invasive surgery.
“There is no need to rush into surgery because of the complications. What we are saying to patients is that there are options available now, and you can look at the most suitable one for you.
“The point is that the best available option should be chosen for the patient. In my opinion, High-Intensity Focused Ultrasound, HIFU – a non-invasive treatment that eliminates need for surgery – is the best option because the patient does not need to be cut at all.
“However, available options may be combined. For instance, HIFU may be combined with hysteroscopy to see the inside of the uterus without invasive surgery.
“We have gone past the level of one size fits all treatment. Nowadays, treatment is tailored for individual patients. There are many women in their 40s with large fibroids and not doing anything about it.
“This is actually what it is drawing my attention. The ordeal of so many people within the health sector that are afraid of doing surgery. Fibroid surgery anywhere in the world has issues and that is why I went all out for HIFU, a non-invasive way to treat uterine fibroids. .
“I have been a doctor for a number of years and what I have done throughout is to treat women. I stopped conventional obstetrics and gynaecology almost 20 years ago since I went into infertility treatment.
“The majority of the problems with surgery has to do with bleeding and so many other things that can go wrong. In HIFU, we do not open you up, it is efficient and the fibroid that has been killed can not come back.
“While you might not be able to kill all the fibroids at a sitting, we can split the procedure since there is no radiation, it can be repeated. While there can be growth of new fibroid, the killed fibroid cannot come back to life.”
Stressing that many things can go wrong during open surgery, Ajayi said it is the high risk of complications women are afraid of, hence they often do not seek treatment for fibroids.
“That is why we are now seeing more women coming forward now that they have realised that they do not have to undergo surgery to remove fibroids.
Speaking about HIFU, he said it uses real-time ultrasound and high-intensity ultrasound waves to generate localised heat to specifically target individual fibroids to destroy the cells.
He said using the treatment method, in conjunction with image guidance, heat can be used to destroy the fibroid tissue without damaging nearby tissue or the tissues that the beam passes through on its way to the target.
Most women suffering from fibroids are scared of the open surgery, but now Nigerians have a choice of minimal invasive services or the new-age non-invasive solution using HIFU
The Nordica Fibroid Care Centre is the first to offer HIFU procedure in Nigeria after the technology was first introduced in 2002, at the University of Oxford, UK.
Ajayi said a total of 64 patients had been successfully attended to since the centre opened in 2021. “We have looked at every patient and satisfied them all. We had to break for the year, however before the end of January we expect that we would have done 80 procedures.
“HIFU has been a good ride because we do our patient selection carefully and they keep to the rules. Relief is immediate for those that have been experiencing discomfort.
“Recovery time is short and patients can return to work and activities of normal life within 24 hours.
“With HIFU, there is no risk of blood loss, damage to organs, and tissue. What we try to do is increase the quality of life of the fibroid patients. Uterine fibroid rarely cause infertilty on its own, but it can disturb it.
“HIFU is not to cure infertility, it improves the woman’s quality of life. For women with infertility, we monitor them carefully.
“We are trying to close the gap for those who need fertility treatment so that they can get pregnant as soon as possible after the fibroid removal.”
Ajayi urged women with challenge of infertility to seek further counsel.
“Waiting endlessly after doing fibroid surgery is not the way to go if you are hoping to get pregnant.”