Southampton experts pioneer test to diagnose early-stage endometriosis


Surgeons and scientists based at Southampton’s teaching hospitals have pioneered a test that could revolutionise diagnosis of early-stage endometriosis.

Miss Ying Cheong, a consultant gynaecologist and co-founder of the Complete Fertility Centre in Southampton, and Dr Tracey Newman, an academic at the University of Southampton’s faculty of medicine, used small particles labelled with fluorescent markers to highlight areas of affected tissue in a study funded by the Infertility Research Trust.

The condition, where small pieces of the womb grow on different organs in the uterus such as the ovaries and fallopian tubes and cause heavy bleeding, stomach and back pain and infertility, can take up to seven years to surface and affects around two million women in the UK, many of them diagnosed between the ages of 25 and 40.

Although medication can be used to allay pain, surgery to remove the affected areas is the most likely treatment for sufferers and, as there are no visual signs of early endometriosis, tissue can only be removed in large sections based on a surgeon’s judgement.

But preliminary results on samples tested by the lab team demonstrated a clear division between normal and diseased cells to give complete accuracy. 

“Although we have only completed the pilot stage of our work, early results show this method enables us to uncover early endometriosis which the naked eye cannot even see during surgery and would only normally be treated by a surgeon removing whole sections of tissue based on judgement rather than specifics,” said Miss Cheong, who is also a senior lecturer in obstetrics and gynaecology at the University of Southampton.

“In the early stages of our ongoing research we aim to advance the visualisation of the disease during surgery based on our results, but we hope to go on to develop treatment strategies to complement surgical treatment by directly delivering medication attached to nanoparticles.”

Miss Cheong presents her findings in London today (Wednesday) at the start of the three-day European Society for Gynaecological Endoscopy conference, which will also see live surgery from Southampton University Hospitals NHS Trust’s Princess Anne Hospital via satellite on Friday.

Miss Cheong, fellow consultant gynaecologists Mr Adam Moors and Dr Sameer Umranikar and three other visiting surgeons will perform two advanced hysterectomy procedures – laparoscopic subtotal and single port – to hundreds of international colleagues attending the event at the ExCeL.

“It is a reflection on the quality of service here in Southampton that we have been invited to showcase some of the advanced minimally invasive surgery we perform here on a daily basis to an audience of leading experts from across the world,” said Mr Moors, a specialist in gynaecological endoscopic surgery.

Posted on Wednesday 21 September 2011