Conference Coverage

Pilot study: Hybrid laser found effective for treating genitourinary syndrome of menopause



A 2,940-nm and 1,470-nm hybrid fractional laser was found to be safe and effective for treating the genitourinary syndrome of menopause (GSM), results from a pilot trial showed.

Dr. Jill S. Waibel is the owner of the Miami Dermatology and Laser Institute.

Dr. Jill S. Waibel

“The genitourinary syndrome of menopause causes suffering in breast cancer survivors and postmenopausal women,” Jill S. Waibel, MD, said during the annual conference of the American Society for Laser Medicine and Surgery. A common side effect for breast cancer survivors is early onset of menopause that is brought on by treatment, specifically aromatase-inhibitor therapies, she noted.

The symptoms of GSM include discomfort during sex, impaired sexual function, burning or sensation or irritation of the genital area, vaginal constriction, frequent urinary tract infections, urinary incontinence, and vaginal laxity, said Dr. Waibel, owner and medical director of the Miami Dermatology and Laser Institute. Nonhormonal treatments have included OTC vaginal lubricants, OTC moisturizers, low-dose vaginal estrogen – which increases the risk of breast cancer – and systemic estrogen therapy, which also can increase the risk of breast and endometrial cancer. “So, we need a healthy, nondrug option,” she said.

The objective of the pilot study was to determine the safety and efficacy of the diVa hybrid fractional laser as a treatment for symptoms of genitourinary syndrome of menopause, early menopause after breast cancer, or vaginal atrophy. The laser applies tunable nonablative (1,470-nm) and ablative (2,940-nm) wavelengths to the same microscopic treatment zone to maximize results and reduce downtime. The device features a motorized precision guidance system and calibrated rotation for homogeneous pulsing.

“The 2,940-nm wavelength is used to ablate to a depth of 0-800 micrometers while the 1,470-nm wavelength is used to coagulate the epithelium and the lamina propria at a depth of 100-700 micrometers,” said Dr. Waibel, who is also subsection chief of dermatology at Baptist Hospital of Miami. “This combination is used for epithelial tissue to heal quickly and the lamina propria to remodel slowly over time, laying down more collagen in tissue.” Each procedure is delivered via a single-use dilator, which expands the vaginal canal for increased treatment area. “The tip length is 5.5 cm and the diameter is 1 cm,” she said. “The clear tip acts as a hygienic barrier between the tip and the handpiece.”

Study participants included 25 women between the ages of 40 and 70 with early menopause after breast cancer or vaginal atrophy: 20 in the treatment arm and 5 in the sham-treatment arm. Dr. Waibel performed three procedures 2 weeks apart. An ob.gyn. assessed the primary endpoints, which included the Vaginal Health Index Scale (VHIS), the Vaginal Maturation Index (VMI), the Female Sexual Function Index (FSFI) questionnaire, and the Day-to-Day Impact of Vaginal Aging (DIVA) questionnaire. Secondary endpoints were histology and a satisfaction questionnaire.

Of the women in the treated group, there were data available for 19 at 3 months follow-up and 17 at 6 months follow-up. Based on the results in these patients, there were statistically significant improvements in nearly all domains of the FSFI treatment arm at 3 and 6 months when compared to baseline, especially arousal (P values of .05 at 3 months and .01 at 6 months) and lubrication (P values of .009 at three months and .001 at 6 months).

Between 3 and 6 months, patients in the treatment arm experienced improvements in four dimensions of the DIVA questionnaire: daily activities (P value of .01 at 3 months to .010 at 6 months), emotional well-being (P value of .06 at 3 months to .014 at 6 months), sexual function (P value of .30 at 3 months to .003 at 6 months), and self-concept/body image (P value of .002 at 3 months to .001 at 6 months).

As for satisfaction, a majority of those in the treatment arm were “somewhat satisfied” with the treatment and would “somewhat likely” repeat and recommend the treatment to friends and family, Dr. Waibel said. Results among the women in the control arm, who were also surveyed, were in the similar range, she noted. (No other results for women in the control arm were available.)

Following treatments, histology revealed that the collagen was denser, fibroblasts were more dense, and vascularity was more notable. No adverse events were observed. “The hybrid fractional laser is safe and effective for treating GSM, early menopause after breast cancer, or vaginal atrophy,” Dr. Waibel concluded. Further studies are important to improve the understanding of “laser dosimetry, frequency of treatments, and longevity of effect. Collaboration between ob.gyns. and dermatologists is important as we learn about laser therapy in GSM.”

Dr. Waibel disclosed that she is a member of the advisory board of Sciton, which manufactures the diVa laser. She has also conducted clinical trials for many other device and pharmaceutical companies.

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