Last month, the New York Times blog published a piece about the dangers of laparoscopic power morcellation – a technique used to remove the uterus or uterine fibroids. The author, Jane Brody explained it this way:
The technique involves insertion of a tiny instrument with a rapidly rotating blade, the morcellator, that breaks up the fibroid so that it can be sucked out through the small opening of a laparoscope.
The grotesque image that comes to mind is that of a food processor. I won’t elaborate, but the technique is designed to allow large tissue to be extracted through small incisions. This is ostensibly less invasive and allows for faster healing.
As recent reports have shown, however, power morcellation can also cause serious and sometimes life-threatening complications. … This problem is all the more serious if the fibroid that was morcellated happens to have contained a hidden cancer.
Today the FDA released guidance which doesn’t halt, but does discourage the technique. From their press release:
Based on an analysis of currently available data, the FDA has determined that approximately 1 in 350 women who are undergoing hysterectomy or myomectomy for fibroids have an unsuspected type of uterine cancer called uterine sarcoma. If laparoscopic power morcellation is performed in these women, there is a risk that the procedure will spread the cancerous tissue within the abdomen and pelvis, significantly worsening the patient’s likelihood of long-term survival.
Read the full release here.
Read about the previously reported risks here.