As many as three quarters of people around the world will suffer from haemorrhoids are some point in their lives. A wide variety of treatments and procedures exist to help individuals deal with and recover from them, with different levels of success. Many treatments can be administered at home, but some require the intervention of a medical professional.
One relatively-new treatment, however, can completely eliminate haemorrhoids in a matter of minutes.
The Rafaelo procedure allows patients to avoid the stress and pain associated with major surgery, and grants them the chance to start going about their daily routines again immediately. It was first developed in Poland and has since been used to treat over 1,000 people in the UK and many more across the world.
Haemorrhoids occur when blood vessels in the rectum and anus come under increased pressure, causing them to inflame and swell. They can be itchy and painful, and can bleed in some cases.
They receive a grading from one to four, with one being the smallest and four being those that are external and require more comprehensive treatment. They cost the UK up to £2million in incapacity benefits every year as people take off work when the condition flares up.
The Rafaelo technique is unique in that it doesn’t require the patient to be anaesthetised throughout. It works for most internal haemorrhoid cases up to grade 4.
According to GI doctors: “Rafaelo stands for Radio Frequency Treatment of Haemorrhoids under Local Anaesthetic and the procedure is offered by experienced colorectal doctors qualified to carry it out. After being given a sedative to help you relax, a local anaesthetic is applied to the area of the haemorrhoid. A special device that emits a safe radio frequency energy is used to stem the blood supply to the haemorrhoid. This causes it to contract, producing virtually instant relief from symptoms.”
The procedure is now widely available in the United Kingdom, in many private hospitals and private clinics and also in a growing number of NHS hospitals. Spire St Anthony’s Hospital in Cheam, Surrey was one of the first to begin administering the procedure to the patients who could afford its considerable cost. Consultant colorectal surgeon Mr Nick West performs the procedure, which is similar to that which is used to cure varicose veins.
Describing the procedure in The Daily Mail, Mr West says: “The base of the haemorrhoid is injected with local anaesthetic. A special metal probe, the width of a knitting needle, is inserted into the haemorrhoid. Radio-frequency energy is then sent down the probe. You can see the haemorrhoid shrinking.”
Surrey-based mother Elena Kim was the first person in the UK to undergo the Rafaelo procedure, which cost her an estimated £1,943.
“I was expecting pain but there wasn’t any,” she explained. “When the sedation wore off, I was so comfortable that I even asked if the procedure had been done. Now I can concentrate on my family and living life to the full again.”
Dharmistha Patel, a mother of two from Brighton, also had the Rafaelo procedure done. She had suffered from haemorrhoids for years and was in the process of arranging to have another treatment done when she stumbled across Rafaelo and opted for it instead.
“I had it done with local anaesthetic,” she said: “I couldn’t feel anything except a slightly warm sensation.
“It was over inside ten minutes and I left hospital an hour later, feeling no pain at all. The next morning I told the consultant it felt like a dream — no pain, no bleeding, nothing. It was the first time in 20 years that I’d felt like this.
“I’m back doing yoga, Pilates and lots of gym classes. I can also lift anything heavy and I’m not in discomfort at all.”
Nick West explained that the Rafaelo procedure (pioneered in Poland and Belgium) uses radiofrequency energy to essentially ‘burn’ haemorrhoids away. The technology is also used to cauterise varicose veins and help manage lung and liver cancer.
Mr West explained: “The main advantage is that Rafaelo doesn’t require a general anaesthetic, can be performed as a day-case procedure and patients can get back to their normal lives much faster.”
The Spire website describes the process in more detail:
“Using the safe and established technology of radio-frequency ablation, the Rafaelo procedure is performed as a short day-case procedure. It does not require a general anaesthetic and you will be able to return to your normal daily activities immediately after treatment. The Rafaelo procedure is designed to treat haemorrhoid grades 1–3. Some grade 4 haemorrhoids may be reduced but it is unlikely that they will not reach a complete resolution, which often will require surgery.”
As with all new procedures, there are of course some associated risks involved. Private Clinic state that: “The potential risks or side effects of the Rafaelo procedure includes some possible discomfort after the procedure, small amount of discharge, recurrence of symptoms, infection of the treatment area and minor bleeding within the first couple of weeks post-procedure.” Of course, as with all anal surgery, there is the slight risk of post-op pain and bleeding but this is rare.
When asked if the procedure hurts, they go on to explain that there could be some discomfort and a sharp scratch at the time when the anaesthetic is injected, but all pain subsides once it kicks in. Some patients can be given a sedative to help them relax.
Consultant colo-rectal surgeon at the Western Sussex Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Neil Cripps, says: “Rafaelo sounds as if it will be of benefit for haemorrhoids that bleed and prolapse, but don’t have large elements outside the anal canal.
“Any effective procedure that doesn’t involve a general anaesthetic and allows a patient to get on with their life more quickly has to be a significant advance.
“Like any new procedure, we need more clinical data before we can make any scientifically based claims, but it seems to be a promising new development.”
Mark Whiteley, a vascular surgeon at Whiteley Clinic, adds: “The early results from Rafaelo appear to be very good.
“It will be interesting to see how much improvement it can make to patients long term compared with traditional methods. I suspect the results will be good and patient satisfaction will be high.”