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FDA Discourages Use of Laparoscopic Power Morcellation for Removal of Uterus or Uterine Fibroids

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Key Points

  • The FDA has discouraged the use of laparoscopic power morcellation for hysterectomy or myomectomy in women.
  • 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.

In a safety communication notice issued yesterday, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) discouraged the use of laparoscopic power morcellation for the removal of the uterus (hysterectomy) or uterine fibroids (myomectomy) in women because, based on an analysis of currently available data, it poses a risk of spreading unsuspected cancerous tissue, notably uterine sarcomas, beyond the uterus.

Laparoscopic power morcellation is one of several available treatments for fibroids. It is a procedure that uses a medical device to divide the uterine tissue into smaller pieces or fragments so it can be removed through a small incision in the abdomen, such as during laparoscopy.

According to the National Institutes of Health, most women will develop noncancerous uterine fibroids at some point in their lives. While most uterine fibroids do not cause problems, they can cause symptoms, such as heavy or prolonged menstrual bleeding, pelvic pressure or pain, and frequent urination, sometimes requiring medical or surgical therapy.

Risk of Spreading Undetected Uterine Sarcoma

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.

“The FDA’s primary concern as we consider the continued use of these devices is the safety and well-being of patients,” said William Maisel, MD, MPH, Deputy Director for Science and Chief Scientist at the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health. “There is no reliable way to determine if a uterine fibroid is cancerous prior to removal. Patients should know that the FDA is discouraging the use of laparoscopic power morcellation for hysterectomy or myomectomy, and they should discuss the risks and benefits of the available treatment options with their health-care professionals.”

A number of additional treatment options are available for women with symptomatic uterine fibroids, including traditional surgical hysterectomy (performed either vaginally or abdominally) and myomectomy, and laparoscopic hysterectomy and myomectomy without morcellation, as well as other nonsurgical options.

Next Steps

The FDA will convene a public meeting of the Obstetrics and Gynecological Medical Devices Panel to discuss information related to laparoscopic power morcellation.

“Input from clinical and scientific experts will help provide valuable information and perspectives to clarify the proper clinical role for these devices,” said Dr. Maisel. “We anticipate the discussion will include whether a boxed warning related to the risk of cancer spread should be added to the product labeling for laparoscopic power morcellators to ensure patients and health-care professionals are adequately informed of the risks.” 

In the interim, the agency has instructed manufacturers of power morcellators used during laparoscopic hysterectomy and myomectomy to review their current product labeling for accurate risk information for patients and health-care professionals.

The content in this post has not been reviewed by the American Society of Clinical Oncology, Inc. (ASCO®) and does not necessarily reflect the ideas and opinions of ASCO®.


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