On Aug. 29, 2019, the first commercial case utilizing the Sonata system to transcervically ablate symptomatic uterine fibroids under ultrasound guidance was performed at Stamford (Conn.) Hospital. This truly minimally invasive new treatment expands our options in the surgical management of uterine fibroids.
Uterine fibroids are the most common benign tumors of the reproductive tract. It has been estimated that nearly half of the 70%-80% of women who develop fibroids during their reproductive years are symptomatic. Given that some patients present with fertility concerns, it also has been estimated that at least one in three women with fibroids have symptoms such as heavy bleeding (menorrhagia) and bulk symptoms, pain (dyspareunia, dysmenorrhea, noncyclic pain), and increased urinary frequency.
Fibroids are the most common cause of hysterectomy in the United States, with 240,000 (40% of 600,000) performed annually, yet research shows that many women are interested in minimally invasive options and in uterine conservation. In a 2013 national survey published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, 79% of women expressed an interest in minimally invasive approaches for fibroid treatment, and over 50% reported a desire for uterine conservation.1
Both myomectomy and uterine artery embolization are uterine-sparing procedures. However, uterine artery embolization should not be performed in a woman interested in pregnancy. Moreover, there are reports of ovarian reserve issues when the procedure is performed in women in their later reproductive years.
Depending on the technique performed, women undergoing hysteroscopic myomectomy are at risk of fluid overload, hyponatremia, gas-related embolism, and postoperative adhesions. The suture requirements of a laparoscopic myomectomy make this approach an often-difficult one to master, even with robotic assistance. It also requires intubation and potentially places the patient at risk for bleeding and infection. Furthermore, long-term risks include adhesions and the need for C-section with pregnancy.
The impact of uterine fibroids on patients’ lives and their desire for uterine conservation has spurred growing interest in the use of radiofrequency (RF) energy to ablate uterine fibroids. In a 2018 systematic review of nonresective treatments for uterine fibroids published in the International Journal of Hyperthermia, investigators found that the pooled fibroid volume reductions at 6 months after RF ablation and uterine artery embolization were 70% and 54%, respectively.2
The first commercially available system utilizing RF frequency to shrink fibrosis – Acessa – involves laparoscopy, and thus requires abdominal incisions. In August 2018, the Sonata system (Gynesonics: Redwood, Calif.) received Food and Drug Administration clearance after having received European CE-Mark approval in 2010 (for the original device, the VizAblate) and in 2014 (for the next-generation device, the Sonata).
For a complete description of transcervical, intrauterine sonography–guided radiofrequency ablation of uterine fibroids, one can refer to the excellent outline by David Toub, MD, in Current Obstetrics and Gynecology Reports.3 Basically, the Sonata system allows for real-time, image-guided treatment through the use of a reusable intrauterine ultrasound (IUUS) probe, a single-use RF ablation (RFA) handpiece, and graphical guidance software for diagnosis and targeting.