The particles injected into the uterine artery are made of a plastic called PVA (polyvinyl alcohol) and are irregular in shape. Hughes compared them to snowflakes. She said Miami Cardiac and Vascular Institute is 1 of 3 U.S. sites recently selected for Food and Drug Administration-approved clinical trials of a different form of artificial embolism. (An embolism is the medical term for something that blocks a blood vessel, whether it is a blood clot, a small foreign object or even an air bubble.)

The new type, called embosphere microspheres, is, as the name implies, spherical. Benenati said its shape makes it easier to inject through a microcatheter, and easier to control and target. Its first two trials at Miami Cardiac and Vascular Institute, during January, were watched by a number of other lead investigators in the clinical trials and by attendees at a symposium on endovascular therapy. Both, he said, “went very well.”

The microspheres, made by Biosphere Medical, Inc., of Marlborough, Mass., are already approved for use in the European Union, Australia and Canada. The clinical trials currently underway will decide whether the FDA approves them for the United States.

At the University of Mississippi Medical Center, a representative described the I-MRI (interventional magnetic resonance imaging) machine there as a “double doughnut,” with the surgeon standing between the two “doughnuts.” That means he can see the patient directly, as well as see the images produced by the I-MRI.

To use it to kill a uterine fibroid tumor, the surgeon makes a small incision in the patient’s abdomen and introduces a catheter into the tumor. The I-MRI gives images that are described as “nearly real time,” to guide the doctor steering the tube, which is tipped with a device called a CryoHit probe, designed by Galil Medical Ltd. of Tel Aviv, Israel.

When the probe is in the middle of the tumor, the surgeon lowers the temperature of its tip to less than 360 degrees below zero Fahrenheit, destroying its cells.

Sewell and Cowan first performed I-MRI-guided cryosurgery on a uterine fibroid tumor at UMC on March 24. The patient was a 48-year-old woman from Jackson. “She is doing great,” Cowan reported this week. “She went home the next morning after surgery, and has not reported any symptoms since.” Cowan said she told him that she had no pain and had not even needed to take aspirin or acetaminophen.

The two UMC physicians performed the operation again on Friday, April 7, again on a woman in her 40s. Doctors expect her to be sent home the next day.

Sewell has successfully performed similar operations for kidney cancer, using the CryoHit probe, and for lung cancer, using a hot probe instead of a super-cold one. Because human lungs have such a large number of blood vessels, heat generated by radio frequencies is used, to better control bleeding.

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