One patient had the Sonata procedure with positive results.

Fibroid tumors — benign growths in the uterus and uterine walls — are common, occurring in about 70 percent of women. These growths typically start small, and some individuals with fibroids have few or minor symptoms.

However, fibroids often grow in size and number, and many women experience significant abdominal pain, pressure and heavy menstrual bleeding as a result. In addition, fibroids can make it more difficult to become pregnant and cause complications during pregnancy, according to Danny Benjamin, M.D., FACOG, chief of obstetrics and gynecology at DMC Huron Valley-Sinai Hospital in Commerce.

When symptoms were severe, women could choose hysterectomy (removal of the uterus) or myomectomy (surgical removal of the fibroids), but both surgical procedures require hospitalization and a lengthy recovery.

Hormonal injections or the use of IUDs with hormones sometimes provided temporary relief but also caused unpleasant side effects. For most patients, fibroids tended to grow back after treatment was completed.

Dr. Danny Benjamin
Dr. Danny Benjamin

In the past, Benjamin performed a laparoscopic procedure to shrink the fibroids. However, the earlier technology required at least three small abdominal incisions, making it technically more challenging depending on the tumor location. Last year, Gynesonics, a company specializing in the imaging and treatment of gynecologic conditions, received permission from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for its newest version of the Sonata procedure that uses a combination of ultrasound and radiofrequency to target and shrink fibroids. In medical terms, it is described as a sonography-guided transcervical fibroid ablation device.

“I was very impressed by the results of the clinical studies, and the positive impact Sonata had on women’s lives. The incision-free nature of Sonata addresses the growing preference of women seeking a less-invasive, lower risk procedure that preserves the uterus,” said Benjamin, who was specially trained for the procedure.

With the Sonata procedure, the gynecologist inserts a hand-held device into the cervix to identify the location of the fibroids with ultrasound and then uses radiofrequency — a form of heat — to reduce the size of the tumor. “There are no incisions, and the ultrasound defines the safety zone where the heat will be used,” Benjamin explains. General anesthetic is not required. Without abdominal incisions, potential complications are reduced.

‘An Improvement’

Julie McCarthy, 53, of Brighton, had pain from fibroids but didn’t want a hysterectomy. In November, she had the Sonata procedure at DMC Huron Valley-Sinai Hospital with positive results.

After the outpatient procedure, she was sleepy and had some temporary cramping and bleeding. Immediately, McCarthy felt less pressure, especially on her bladder. “I don’t have that heaviness, pressure or pain on one side. There is less bloating, distension and tenderness. I definitely see an improvement in the quality of my life.”

Jamie King, 36, was the second Sonata patient at Huron Valley-Sinai. “It was extremely easy with no pain, some bleeding and a little pressure,” she said. “I don’t have the same pain. It feels like it’s gone. I didn’t need any recovery time.”

“There is a high success rate. Ninety percent of patients have positive results,” said Benjamin. Currently, Huron Valley-Sinai Hospital is the only hospital within the Detroit Medical Center offering the procedure and the first in Michigan.