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The U.S. Food and Drug Administration made headlines last month when it issued a rather sternly worded statement discouraging OB/GYNs from performing a certain type of surgical procedure that it claims can increase the risks of spreading cancer.
The procedure in question is laparoscopic power morcellation, which for the uninitiated, is when a surgeon uses a medical device outfitted with a series of small blades to divide uterine tissue into smaller segments for removal. In general, laparoscopic power morcellation is used for hysterectomies (i.e., removal of the uterus) or myomectomies (i.e., removal of uterine fibroids).
According to the FDA, one in every 350 women undergoing either type of procedure has an as yet undetected form of cancer known as uterine sarcoma, and that when laparoscopic power morcellation is performed, it presents the risk that this cancerous tissue will be spread throughout the patient’s pelvis and abdomen, greatly decreasing their chances of survival.
Given that statistics show that roughly 600,000 hysterectomies are performed here in the U.S. every year and that in roughly 10 percent of cases laparoscopic power morcellation is used, it’s no surprise that the FDA’s opposition to the procedure has generated such discussion.
In fact, at least one cardiovascular surgeon and lecturer at Harvard Medical School is now calling out several medical facilities here in the Pittsburgh area, including the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and Allegheny Health Network Hospitals, for continuing to perform laparoscopic power morcellation.
Here, the surgeon became a vocal critic of laparoscopic power morcellation after his own wife, also a physician, developed cancer following a hysterectomy.
For their part, both AHN and UPMC defend the continued utilization of the procedure, stating that all patients are screened to determine whether they are viable surgical candidates and informed of all risks and benefits.
It should be interesting to see whether these medical establishments end up following the same route as other Pennsylvania hospitals and stop performing laparoscopic power morcellation altogether.
What are your thoughts on this highly controversial topic?
Remember to consider contacting an experienced legal professional if you or a loved one have been victimized by what you consider to be OB/GYN malpractice.
Source: U.S. Food and Drug Administration, “FDA discourages use of laparoscopic power morcellation for removal of uterus or uterine fibroids,” April 17, 2014; Pittsburgh Business Times, “Harvard doctor blasts surgical procedure at UPMC, Allegheny Health Network,” Kris B. Mamula, April 19, 2014