doctor_female_patientThe Ontario Health Technology Advisory Committee (OHTAC) has determined that magnetic resonance-guided high-intensity focused ultrasound (MRgHIFU) is a possible “cost-effective strategy” and a “safe and effective, noninvasive, uterine-preserving” option for women seeking treatment for uterine fibroids.

An evidence review was performed by Health Quality Ontario (HQO), which has a legislated mandate in Canada to evaluate the effectiveness of new health care technologies and services. Its findings led to the OHTAC recommendation, saying the technique offers significant improvement in fibroid symptoms and rapid post-procedure recovery for women, with a rare occurrence of complications and a low risk of needing further treatments. A companion OHTAC economic analysis also concluded that MRgHIFU could result in annual savings of up to $4.15 million for Ontarians.

A therapeutic technology that uses focused ultrasound energy to heat and destroy targeted tissue, MRgHIFU also employs real-time magnetic resonance imaging to guide and monitor treatment. The treatment is completely non-invasive and allows women to return to normal activity within a couple of days.

“These findings by HQO and OHTAC are an important step in recognizing the body of evidence that supports the efficacy and cost benefit of the technology,” said Neal Kassell, founder and chairman of the Focused Ultrasound Foundation in Charlottesville, Virg. “We were pleased and not surprised to see that after a thorough review of the evidence, OHTAC found focused ultrasound to offer significant treatment advantages for women, including possible fertility preservation, at a reasonable cost. We expect these reports to facilitate full adoption of focused ultrasound in Ontario and help address the challenges to widespread acceptance of the technology globally, such as insurance reimbursement for procedure costs.”

The ExAblate focused ultrasound system developed by InSightec was approved to treat uterine fibroids in Canada in 2013 and in the United States in 2004. The Sonalleve focused ultrasound system, developed by Philips, was first approved for routine clinical use in Canada in 2011 and is in clinical trials in the United States.

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