Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Sonic Blade

Just by chance I happened to see a TV advert for a revolutionary new home kitchen tool, the Sonic Blade. It cuts through layers of a sandwich without smooshing everything in the process. The 30 seconds I saw hooked me. The images were compelling. The blade cuts so finely and crisply that your sandwich looks like it has been cut with surgical precision.

Immediately I thought, "Ah ha!" that sonic blade is a mass marketed version of the precision surgical instrument my surgeon used to remove my endo. It looked like it vibrated quickly and that is what made it slice through the sandwich with minimal damage.

So, remembering that my surgeon said he used a "harmonic scalpel" that vibrates, I googled it and found that the "ultrasonic" blade he used vibrates 55,500 times per second.
Here's how it works.

Having read the blurb about the ultrasonic harmonic scalpel used on me, I can say I am impressed and fortunate that he used this tool instead of a laser. Lasers burn the endo away and cauterize at much higher temperatures. That creates more tissue damage, kind of like what happens when you use an ordinary kitchen knife to cut through a sandwich - you end up with seriously torn up insides.

Unfortunately, lasers are foisted off on many women who have surgery for endometriosis and aren't lucky enough to get sent to a surgeon who uses such fancy equipment. I recall reading somewhere, I forget exactly where, that lasers are actually more expensive than scalpels. That makes intuitive sense. I wonder about cost of the harmonic vibrating scalpel.

I couldn't easily find out how much the harmonic scalpel costs, but I bet it is be pretty pricey given its Lilliputian proportion. It's only 5mm in diameter.

The knock-off As Seen On TV version costs $100, and if you buy now, you get one for free, reducing the per item cost to $50. That's so cheap I wonder if the quality matches. In any case, I am certainly glad my surgeon didn't use such a crude instrument on me! The Sonic Blade only vibrates a few hundred times per MINUTE, allegedly. Here's how it works.


Rose Connors said...

I wish I would have known about the harmonic scalpel when I had my laser laproscopy!

Holly said...

Me too. I don't know exactly how cutting edge this instrument is, i.e. when it hit the market, but it exists and hopefully more women will benefit from it. I participate in the endo message board at iVillage so at least some women will know about it if they are the online support group type.

Alasdair said...

The surgeon who worked on you sure sneered when I asked whether he'd used a laser. He was like, "That is soo '87."

It is a great tool - very snazzy.

Anonymous said...

Hi ladies, it's Dianne here. I have not had my endo procedure yet, got home from the hospital last night without having a procedure. Fired my old GYN who was too stupid to take biopsies of endo tissue and my scars/adhesions are small, hard to see by scoping with a camera. My pain is out of control. I am on an SSRI and Yasmin BCP and Norco (10 mg up to 4 times a day). If my scarring is so small, can the sonic scalpel work for me or do I need to have a laser? or if they can't see it at all, should I ask for something like Anastrozole (I have have a small density in my left breast, which has not been biopsied). I also have two fibroids in my uterus am 45 years old, can conceive but cannot carry to term. Should I go for the hysterectomy? Any help is appreciated.

Holly said...

In order for endo to be removed surgically, the surgeon has to be able to see it. The reason the harmonic scalpel is bvetter than laser is that the scalpel removes tissue more precisely with a lot less damage to surrounding tissue. It can also carve out endo deeper than a laser can - lasers remove surface endo and leaves behind endo that lies deeper. If left behind, endo grows back.

As for Anastrozole, I haven't heard about that.

From what I understand, a hysterectomy will relieve pain from fibroids (because the procedure removes the uterus where the fibroids grow) but will NOT necessarily relieve pain from endo because endo grows outside of the uterus.

Hope that helps! Remember, I am a psychologist, not a medical doctor, so always consult an MD, preferably a reproductive surgeon with experience treating endo, before making decisions.