FDA warns hysterectomy device not safe for all women

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DENVER — Hysterectomy is the second most common surgery for women in the United States, but a tool that greatly reduces pain and recovery time has the Food and Drug Administration concerned.

Experts say the instrument may be capable of spreading cancer in some patients.

Johnson and Johnson suspended its worldwide sales of the laparoscopic power morcellator. The device divides uterine tissue into smaller sections so it can be removed through tiny incisions.

Since some women may have cancerous tissue in the area, health experts are concerned that the tool could cause the disease to spread.

Dr. Gerald Zarlengo of Example St. Joseph Hospital says surgeons are always concerned about the spread of cancer cells and adds, “I think it appropriate to have a moment here to take a pause.”

Dr. Zarlengo says physicians take extensive precautions to make sure dangerous cells are not left behind.

Women can ask about alternative surgical procedures, meanwhile, the medical community is considering other methods that may do a better job of containing potentially dangerous tissue, like placing the uterus into a special bag before it’s removed.

Dr. Zarlengo says, “You morcillate the uterus inside there so if any of these cells go scattering they’re in the bag.”

While the tool is being suspended, Johnson and Johnson is not likely to get rid of it altogether, because it may still be the best option for some patients after weighing the benefits and the risks.

Angela Lombardi is one patient who didn’t face those risks, so a laparoscopic hysterectomy provided a solution to her problems. She says, “With my body I decided that that was going to be helpful for me.”

Doctors say staying informed is the best tool when it comes to safeguarding your health.