A new test has been developed by surgeons and scientists based at Southampton’s teaching hospitals, that could transform the way early-stage endometriosis is diagnosed.

In an investigation funded by the Infertility Research Trust, Miss Ying Cheong, a consultant gynecologist and co-funder of the Complete Fertility Center in Southampton, together with Dr. Tracey Newman, an academic at the University of Southampton’s faculty of medicine, used small particles marked with fluorescent markers to bring to light areas of affected tissue.

Endometriosis, a female health disorder that occurs when small pieces of the uterus grow on to different organs such as the ovaries and fallopian tubes, that can cause heavy bleeding, stomach and back pain as well as infertility, can take up to seven years to surface. In the UK, approximately 2 million women are affected by this condition, several of whom are diagnosed between 25 and 40 years of age.

Even though drugs can be used to relieve pain, the most likely treatment is to have the affected areas surgically removed, however, because there are no visual signs of early endometriosis, tissue can only be removed in large sections based on the judgement of the surgeon.

A clear division between normal and diseased cells to give complete accuracy was demonstrated in the initial results from samples that were tested by the investigation team.

Miss Cheong, who is also a senior lecturer in obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Southampton, explained:

“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.

In early stages of our ongoing research we aim to advance the visualization 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.”

Today, Miss Cheong presents her discoveries in London at the beginning of the three-day European Society of Gynecological Endoscopy conference, which also, via satellite on Friday, will show live surgery from Southampton University Hospitals NHS Trust’s Princess Anne Hospital. Two advanced hysterectomy procedures – laparoscopic subtotal and single port – will be performed by Miss Cheong, fellow consultant gynecologists Mr Adam Moors and Dr Sameer Umranikar and three other visiting surgeons to hundreds of international colleagues attending the event at the ExCeL.

Mr Moors, a specialist in gynecological endoscopic surgery explains:

“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.”

Written by Grace Rattue