WOMEN in Southampton will be the first in the world to trial a new treatment designed to tackle a debilitating condition.

Doctors at Southampton General Hospital will lead the pioneering study into the use of new dissolvable ‘gel-beads’ to treat fibroids.

The non-cancerous growths, which can cause abdominal and back pain, heavy periods and issues with fertility and pregnancy, affect around one in three women between the ages of 30 and 50.

Fibroids develop in or on the uterus. Other symptoms include the constant need to urinate and constipation.

Known as ‘gel-bead embolisation spheres’, the new treatment will be used as part of uterine fibroid embolisation (UFE), a technique which involves using a tiny catheter inserted in the groin to inject them into the arteries where they cut the blood supply and shrink the fibroids.

Although UFE is now a commonly used non-surgical alternative to a hysterectomy – the removal of the uterus – the plastic microbeads currently injected are permanent and remain in the vessels – whereas the non-plastic gel-beads are absorbed within a few weeks.

This enables the blood supply to the uterus to function fully and could help to preserve fertility following treatment.

The 12-month study, led by Dr Nigel Hacking, a consultant interventional radiologist, will involve 20 to 25 patients.

Dr Hacking said: “We are very pleased to be leading the first study in the world looking at this exciting and non-plastic temporary agent to treat fibroids without the need for surgery.

“While our primary aim is to confirm the gel-beads are a safe and effective alternative, we also hope to establish if the treatment holds any benefits over current and permanent agents.”

“They are also very keen to highlight UFE to other women in the same situation who are afraid to come forward as they know their gynaecologist will likely recommend hysterectomy or some other form of conventional surgery rather than UFE.”