The FDA last week for the first time discouraged doctors from using morcellators when performing hysterectomies. The FDA also said morcellators should be avoided when removing uterine fibroids. The concern is that if there is cancerous tissue in the abdomen, it will hurt a patient’s chance of recovering from the cancer. In some cases, surgeons can be stirring up cancer that neither the doctor or the patient even knows exists. How real of a concern is that? The FDA says that 1 in 350 women who are undergoing a hysterectomy or myomectomy for fibroids have a uterine sarcoma, an unsuspected type of uterine cancer that can be deadly.
What is a morcellator?
A morcellator is a surgical device that is used to divide and remove tissue masses during laparoscopic surgery. In a hysterectomy, the device divides the uterus. It is also frequently used to dissect uterine fibroids during myomectomies/fibroidectomies.
This surgical device cuts the tissue mass into pieces. The surgeon then pulls out the pieces through extremely small incisions. There is no question there is an upside to this technique. It is minimally invasive surgery which means no big scars, shorter recovery time, and less of the other risks that come with surgery.
So the FDA’s announcement is a major development. Morcellators are being used in massive numbers. It is used in tens of thousands of hysterectomies each year.