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Since I know women with fibroids, I wanted the public to know of a potentially harmful surgery that some doctors and hospitals in the Pittsburgh area may still be recommending to unsuspecting women.
Many women suffer from a common medical condition known as a uterine fibroid, which is a muscular or fibrous tissue in the uterine wall. There are many ways to treat fibroids, including surgery. Often doctors will recommend hysterectomy once a woman has had children or is approaching menopause. For years doctors have been advising women to have a hysterectomy laparoscopically – through a small incision in the abdomen – as opposed to a traditional open surgery. In order to remove the uterus and fibroids using a laparoscopic technique, an instrument called a morcellator is used to grind up or shred the tissue so that it can be removed through the small laparoscope. The problem with using a morcellator on a patient with fibroids is that some women will have an undetected cancer and once the shredding of the fibroid takes place, cancer can be spread or “seeded” throughout the woman’s abdominal cavity. This can take a Stage I treatable cancer to a Stage IV life threatening cancer.
What was most surprising about our research on morcellators is that the manufacturers and medical community may have had knowledge as early as 2006 that there would be a risk to certain women of spreading or seeding cancer but this risk was never communicated to the patient. Accordingly, women throughout Pennsylvania and the United States, have not been adequately informed of the risks of laparoscopic hysterectomy using a morcellator. It appears physicians have been touting the benefits of laparoscopic surgery, including a smaller incision citing lesser recovery time and less chance of infection, while avoiding the entire topic of spreading an undiagnosed cancer.
As the direct result of efforts by Dr. Hooman Noorchashm and Dr. Amy Reed of Boston, Massachusetts, certain manufacturers of morcellators have decided to stop distributing the morcellators for laparoscopic hysterectomies and hospitals have stopped allowing the morcellator to be used for hysterectomies. Several of our local hospitals, including UPMC, recently announced that it will be suspending use of the morcellator for this surgery.
For those hospitals that have not stopped using a morcellator for laparoscopic hysterectomies, it is important that women with fibroids know all of the risks and benefits of surgery. If you or someone you know has uterine fibroids or you have already had a laparoscopic hysterectomy with the use of a morcellator you should educate yourself on these issues. Our office has two experienced female trial attorneys and medical personnel on staff who would be happy to answer your questions and concerns about uterine fibroids, laparoscopic hysterectomy, morcellators, the recall of morcellators or your diagnosis of uterine cancer.