FDA Discourages Morcellation for Removal of Uterus or Uterine Fibroids

The Food and Drug Admistration (FDA) advisory panel has discouraged the use of morcellators. These are the laparoscopic power devices used to perform hysterectomies and treatment of painful fibroids, either by removing the growths themselves or the entire uterus.

The morcellator uses a spinning power cutter to slice uterine tissue into smaller fragments. Those fragments are then removed through small incisions in the abdomen via a tube or laparoscope.

The reason for the discouragement lies in the growing concern that the electronic surgical tools can raise the risk of spreading cancer to other parts of the body.

According to Dr. William Maisel, deputy director for science and chief scientist at the FDA's Center for Devices and Radiological Health, about 60,000 surgical procedures are performed every year and the estimations say that about one in 350 women undergoing a hysterectomy or fibroid removal has an unsuspected type of cancer called uterine sarcoma.

"Women who need a hysterectomy or fibroid removal can still undergo traditional or laparoscopic surgery, just without the use of a power morcellator", Maisel said.

The reports of Wall Street Journal reveal that Johnson & Johnson Company, the largest maker of the surgical tool, has suspended the sale of morcellators in April. They have sent a letter to all of its customers asking them to return back the devices. They are likely to halt the usage of these devices in the market worldwide.

Steven McCarus, chief of gynecological surgery at Florida Hospital Celebration Health, says that the magnitude of the risk is too high to ignore as there is no way to guarantee that cancer won't follow later.