Dr. Falcone pointed out that, at the Cleveland Clinic, morcellation is not performed in postmenopausal women, and for several other contraindications, including a history of >2 years of tamoxifen therapy; history of pelvic radiation; history of childhood retinoblastoma; personal history of hereditary leiomyomatosis or renal cell carcinoma; and the presence of a cancer-positive tissue specimen. Morcellation is not performed unless endometrial adenocarcinoma has been ruled out. The decision-making process when electing to use tissue extraction includes whether to use contained or noncontained morcellation; whether to favor knife excision over power morcellation; and, when using a mini lap approach, whether to proceed via the umbilicus or suprapubically.
Complications of morcellation include direct injury by the morcellator; dissemination, as noted, of tissue; ‘upstaging’ of uterine sarcoma, with a worsening prognosis; seeding of parasitic fibroids; and reoperation with laparotomy and extensive multi-organ resection to clear disease (3 patients in a published report).5
An important advancement in the use of morcellation in minimally invasive hysterectomy or myomectomy has been the development of contained systems for morcellating—generally a plastic specimen bag, sometimes pulled through the port and insufflated. Dr. Falcone’s presentation included video presentations of this important, and still evolving, technology. Whether these contained systems improve survival, and whether using them in a vaginal approach makes any difference, remain uncertain, however. Furthermore, some spillage from bags is inevitable—although how much spillage is clinically significant is open to question.
Dr. Falcone concluded with key points to guide the surgeon’s decision on whether to proceed with morcellation:
- There are no comparative data on which technique [of tissue removal] is best.
- Tissue spill will occur in uncontained morcellation—this is intrinsic to the device.
- Even with the current generation of tissue bags, leakage is common and puncture is possible.
If you choose to continue to use power morcellation, your decision is supported by the fact that all the professional societies still support it, Dr. Falcone noted. Furthermore, he pointed out that it is important to look to the standard of care in your community regarding risks and benefits before proceeding.
Last, the advantages and risks of morcellation in hysterectomy and myomectomy should be part of an in-depth discussion between patient and surgeon prior to the procedure. And you must, Dr. Falcone emphasized, obtain specific informed consent.