Some Surgeons Still Using Morcellators in Uterine Surgery

Some Surgeons Still Using Morcellators in Uterine SurgerySeptember 25, 2014 — The Wall Street Journal reports that some surgeons are still using morcellators in gynecological surgery despite FDA warnings against its use due to the risk of spreading cancer.

The WSJ talked to one doctor from Dallas, Texas who said he has been telling patients that there is no good data to show morcellators worsen uterine sarcoma.

In April, the FDA warned that 1 in 350 women who undergo surgery to remove fibroids actually has undiagnosed cancer. He asks patients to sign a consent form, and says, “We tell them verbally that we don’t think those numbers are correct.”

It is unclear how many gynecological surgeons are still using laparoscopic power morcellators on their patients. Some hospitals have asked surgeons to stop using them, including Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Philadelphia’s Temple University Hospital. Some insurance companies have also dropped coverage for the procedure. Johnson & Johnson, the largest manufacturer of morcellators, pulled the devices off the market in July.

The campaign against power morcellation was spearheaded by Dr. Amy Reed, a Harvard-affiliated physician who was diagnosed with stage-4 leiomyosarcoma a few months after undergoing laparoscopic power morcellation. She says the device spread malignant cells throughout her abdomen, greatly worsening her prognosis.

Gynecologists are broadly discussing risks and benefits of the procedure. Benefits include less bleeding, less risk of infection, and a faster operation. However, there are other minimally-invasive surgeries that have the same benefits but don’t require power morcellation (such as a vaginal hysterectomy).

The WSJ was the first major publication to discourage the use of laparoscopic power morcellators. In February, they reported that the top gynecologist at Philadelphia’s Temple University Hospital was restricting the use of morcellators to specific cases, and only with protective surgical bags. Unfortunately, even bags are no guarantee against spreading cancer.

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