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Microwave treatment used first time in the country to cure bone tumours

By M. Waqar Bhatti
March 18, 2019

Microwaves are being used in electrical ovens for cooking and reheating food in Pakistan for quite some time but this is the first time in the country that a team of skilled and trained radiologists in Karachi have used the electromagnetic radiations to help people get rid of cancerous and non-cancerous tumours, curing them without any complications within a short span of time.

The latest radiological intervention was used for the first time in Karachi by Dr Kashif Shazlee, the chairman of Imaging Services of the Indus Health Network, on Wednesday, March 13, when he along with his team treated two youngsters suffering from osteoid osteoma, a painful tumour of the bones which has no other treatment except for the recently-introduced radiological intervention.

“Today we used microwave ablation technique for the first time in Karachi to treat tumours of bones of two young patients and burnt both the tumours with high-energy radiation without any surgical procedure. It completely cured both the patients through a procedure which lasted less than 30 minutes”, explained Dr Shazlee, who has recently joined the Indus Health Network as the chairman of its imaging services that deal with radiology.

Dr Shazlee said after the introduction of the new treatment facility, Indus Hospital Karachi had become the only health facility in Karachi where needy patients could avail the world-class treatment free of charge.

He also thanked Dr Abdul Bari Khan, the chief executive officer of the health network, for his efforts in making the treatment available to the dwellers of Karachi.

Microwave ablation

The new treatment of tumours is based on a new technology, known as microwave ablation (MWA), which destroys tumours using heat generated by microwave energy.

Dr Shazlee explained that to use the treatment, the radiologists first insert a small laparoscopic port or open incision to gain access to the tumour.

“A CT scan or ultrasonic guidance is used to pinpoint the exact location of the tumour. A thin antenna, which emits microwaves, is then inserted into the tumor. The probe produces intense heat that ablates [destroys] tumour tissue, often within 10 minutes.”

According to the radiologist, microwave ablation is now the gold standard for the treatment of liver, kidney, thyroid and bone tumours and cancers and has a number of advantages compared to surgery or traditional radiofrequency ablation. “It is speedy as compared to surgery and other methods, it can simultaneously ablate several tumours at the same time while through this technique, tumours larger in size can also be dealt with, without any complication,” he said.

Osteoid osteoma

“Osteoid osteoma is a very painful condition of bones, in which a benign tumour affects a bone or bones of young children or teenagers and result in extreme pain and agony, usually at night,” Dr Shazlee maintained.

According to the doctor, one of the characteristics of these tumours is that pain is most frequently felt at night, depriving patients of sleep. “The pain may also occur during the day. Sometimes the pain gets worse over time,” he said.

“Another identification of this extremely painful condition is that its patients feel relief from aspirin, ibuprofen or other anti-inflammatory agents,” he added.

Interventional radiologists

Interventional radiologists are medical specialists who perform image-guided minimally invasive procedures to treat different health conditions including cancers, tumours in bones, liver, kidneys, thyroid glands, brain and many other diseases.

“At the moment, 40 to 50 per cent of diseases are being treated with radiological interventions or procedures throughout the world and every day new techniques and procedures are being invented to treat and cure complicated diseases,” Dr Shazlee said.

The expert lamented that Pakistan was facing an acute shortage of trained, skilled and qualified interventional radiologists. Compared to the minimum requirement of 2,200 interventional radiologists, there were only 60 such professionals in the country serving at different public and private hospitals, he said.

Dr Shazlee, who was trained at Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Center (JPMC) and later served at Dow University’s Ojha Campus as well as Ziauddin University Hospital, urged the authorities to spend the same amount of money on training professionals which is used for the purchase of machinery and equipment.

Hospitals in Sindh have latest equipment and machines but they lack trained and qualified staff to run those machines, he remarked.

He deplored the fact that hospitals in various cities of Sindh had dozens of costly machines and equipment, which were lying unutilised due to the absence of qualified interventional radiologists and technicians, and stressed the need for offering incentives to the young doctors so that they could receive training in the field of interventional radiology and serve the ailing humanity in the country.