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Laparoscopic Power Morcellators Can Spread Undetected Cancer

Power morcellators are used when performing minimally-invasive hysterectomies and myomectomies (removal of fibroids). Physicians insert these devices into the patient’s body through small incisions. The morcellators, tiny devices with rotating blades, break large tissues down into smaller fragments, which are then able to be vacuumed out of the body. Unfortunately, these devices can put women at an increased risk for a number of deadly uterine cancers.

The FDA issued an amended safety communication in November 2014, warning against the use of power morcellators in the majority of women undergoing myomectomy or hysterectomy because of the risk of spreading undiagnosed cancer throughout the abdominal cavity. An estimated 1 in 350 women undergoing hysterectomy or myomectomy for the treatment of fibroids has undetected uterine sarcoma. According to the FDA, if laparoscopic power morcellation is performed in women who have unsuspected uterine sarcoma, “there is a risk that the procedure will spread the cancerous tissue within the abdomen and pelvis, significantly worsening the patient’s long-term survival.” As a result, the FDA has stated that use of laparoscopic power morcellators is contraindicated for the removal of uterine fibroids in the majority of cases.

In addition, these devices are used in certain laparoscopic kidney and spleen surgeries. Morcellators can spread previously undetected cancers into the abdomen. The devices may also spread benign tissues throughout the abdominal cavity, where they can grow on other organs, causing pain, bowel obstruction, and infection.