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Magnetic resonance-guided focused ultrasound is a non-invasive procedure to treat fibroids. The procedure — often referred to as MR-guided focused ultrasound or MRgFUS — is performed by an interventional radiologist.

An MRI provides detailed imaging of the uterus and fibroid tumors. The interventional radiologist uses these images to pinpoint the fibroids and treat them with focused ultrasound energy, which heats the fibroids to destroy them.

This procedure is approved by the US Food and Drug Administration for treating fibroids. The interventional radiology experts at Weill Cornell Medicine are also studying this technique for treating breast, prostate, brain, and bone cancers.

Who Is an Ideal Candidate for MR-Guided Focused Ultrasound?

MR-guided focused ultrasound is a highly effective treatment for many patients. The benefits of MR-guided focused ultrasound for fibroids include: 

  • Relief from fibroid symptoms within three to six months
  • Protection of healthy tissue, including the uterus and ovaries
  • No scars and short recovery because it is a non-invasive procedure

At the Weill Cornell Medicine Fibroid and Adenomyosis Program, all patients receive an extensive evaluation, including physical examination and fibroid mapping. They are then evaluated by a team of fibroid specialists to determine if they are suitable candidates for MR-focused ultrasound.

Considerations

As a minimally invasive surgery, the complications and recovery time are minimal. 

If you are pregnant, have certain implants (such as a pacemaker or neurotransmitter), have a blood clotting condition or other underlying health conditions, you should not receive MR-focused ultrasound treatment for fibroids.

There is a small risk of skin burns from the ultrasound heat. Your care team will take all possible precautions to prevent burns. Be sure to tell your doctor or nurse if you feel skin pain during the procedure.

What to Expect During MR-Guided Focused Ultrasound

This non-invasive procedure destroys fibroid tissue using ultrasound waves. The treatment takes about three hours, and you will be able to go home a few hours after the procedure is over. 

You will be given sedation medication to help you relax, but you will be awake and able to communicate during the procedure (often called conscious sedation). Your abdomen will be shaved and cleaned with alcohol to prevent burns. You will also receive a catheter to drain your bladder during the procedure.

You will lie in an MRI machine to gather highly detailed images of the inside of the body. This enables the interventional radiologist to deliver the treatment directly to each fibroid. The physician uses high-intensity ultrasound waves to heat and ablate (destroy) the fibroid tissue. The process of heating the fibroid tissue using ultrasound waves is often referred to as sonication. You may feel a warm sensation in your pelvis or cramping, similar to menstrual cramps. 

After the procedure, your physician will use the MRI imaging to evaluate the size of the fibroids to confirm that they have been ablated.

What to Expect During Recovery

MR-guided focused ultrasound for uterine fibroids is an outpatient procedure; no hospital stay is required. Typically, patients are able to leave the hospital a few hours after the procedure, begin work and mild activity in a few days, and recover fully within two weeks. 

During this procedure, you must stay still for several hours. This can cause short-term pain, bruising, or fatigue for a few days.

Be sure to call your physician if you: 

  • Experience pain that persists for several days
  • Have a fever above 101 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Develop a urinary tract infection from the catheter

Follow-up care: Patients at the Weill Cornell Medicine Fibroid and Adenomyosis Program will have a follow-up visit, either in person or via telehealth, two weeks and six months after the procedure.

Why Choose Weill Cornell Medicine for MR-Guided Focused Ultrasound?

There are many treatment options available to women who suffer from fibroids or adenomyosis. Treatment options range from medical therapy to surgery, with many other options in between.

The team at the Weill Cornell Medicine Fibroid and Adenomyosis Program is proud to offer the latest treatment options and provide personalized care for our patients. By getting to know and listening to our patients, we understand their needs, as well as their most difficult symptoms.

As a multidisciplinary team offering the most innovative treatment options, we discuss the risks and benefits of all treatment options with our patients. Our specialists carefully evaluate each patient to determine if they are suitable candidates for MR-guided focused ultrasound.

Our team of minimally invasive gynecologic surgeons and interventional radiologists collaborates with other specialists in reproductive health, integrative medicine, and nutrition to help patients receive high-quality, personalized care.