IRC: Infrared Coagulation

Infrared Coagulation is a new non surgical technique that has revolutionized the treatment of symptomatic internal hemorrhoids. Much like a laser, this device focuses infrared light on hemorrhoid tissues, coagulating them. In the same way that blocking a stream will dry up a lake, IRC coagulates the "feeder veins" that deliver blood to the hemorrhoids. By gradually cutting off the blood supply, the hemorrhoid shrinks and symptoms subside.

This technique is now offered in our office. Usually three to four treatments are required. But, this simple office procedure only takes about 5 minutes, is practically painless, and requires no incision or lengthy recovery or time lost from work. The success rate is high and surgery can be avoided in about 80% of patients.

What Is Infrared Coagulation?

Infrared Coagulation (IRC) has quickly become the most widely used office treatment for hemorrhoids and is preferred over other methods because it is fast, well-tolerated by patients, and virtually problem-free. A small probe contacts the area above the hemorrhoid, exposing the tissue to a burst of infrared light for about one second. This coagulates the veins above the hemorrhoid causing it to shrink and recede.

You can think of a hemorrhoid like a venous lake that is fed by many small streams, or veins. Blood flowing from these veins keeps the hemorrhoid full of blood and swollen. This often leads to symptoms of bleeding and painful swelling. Since the hemorrhoids are located in an area that is full of sensitive nerve endings, it is too painful to coagulate the hemorrhoids directly.

Fortunately, there is a simple, painless, and effective alternative. For some reason, the small veins that feed the hemorrhoids lie in an area that has very few nerve endings and very little feeling. With IRC, your doctor can take advantage of this fact by going above the hemorrhoids and destroying these small veins. In this way, the pain sensitive area is avoided. Destroying these small veins stops the flow of blood to the hemorrhoids just like blocking a river will dry up a lake.

How is IRC done?

This technique could not be simpler. There is no laxative preparation or need for fasting before this procedure. You don't need a driver to accompany you. After changing into a patient gown and signing a permission form, you will be asked to lie on your left side on the padded exam table. After examining the rectum with a lubricated glove, the doctor will insert a short plastic scope called an anoscope. This is not painful but will cause a feeling of fullness in the anal area. The doctor can now view the hemorrhoids directly. Once the "target" is identified, he will pass a small infrared probe above the hemorrhoids. He will then apply 5 - 10 short bursts of Infrared light. Much like a laser, this generates heat which destroys these "feeder" veins.

Is IRC painful?

The patient may feel a sensation of heat very briefly, but since the treatment is done in an area which lacks pain fibers, it is generally not painful. Therefore anesthetic is usually not required.

What is the success rate of IRC?

The success of this technique depends upon many factors such as the size and duration of the hemorrhoid. In general, about 85% of individual report a satisfactory response to treatment. That "cure" rate is somewhat diminished when a large hemorrhoid has been neglected for many years. It is best to treat them when they are small are more readily curable.

Are There Any After Effects?

Generally not. Most patients return to a normal lifestyle the same day. There may be slight spot bleeding a few days later. Heavy straining or lifting should be avoided and aspirin should not be taken for a few days. We ask our patients to stay on a high fiber diet and to use a fiber supplement such as Citrucel daily for the duration of treatment.

How Many Visits Are Required?

Each treatment takes about 2 minutes and most patient require several trips a few weeks apart to destroy all of the "feeder" veins. Over time, this causes the hemorrhoids to shrink and, in many cases, disappear completely. Even if the hemorrhoid is not totally eliminated, the shrinkage usually stops troublesome symptoms such as bleeding, pain, and protrusion.

Will The Hemorrhoids Come Back?

Millions of patients have been treated with IRC. Experience tells us that hemorrhoids treated with IRC generally do not recur. A sensible diet, moderate exercise and proper bowel habits will also help.