Clinical Review

Morcellation use in gynecologic surgery: Current clinical recommendations and cautions

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Perform a thorough preoperative evaluation to optimize outcomes

Women like this case patient who present with symptoms that may lead to treatment with myomectomy or hysterectomy should undergo appropriate preoperative testing to evaluate for malignancy.

According to ACOG guidance, patients should undergo a preoperative endometrial biopsy if they15:

  • are older than 45 years with abnormal uterine bleeding
  • are younger than 45 years with unopposed estrogen exposure (including obesity or polycystic ovary syndrome)
  • have persistent bleeding, or
  • failed medical management.

Our case patient is younger than 45 but is obese (BMI, 35) and therefore is a candidate for endometrial biopsy. Additionally, all patients should have up-to-date cervical cancer screening. ACOG also recommends appropriate use of imaging with ultrasonography or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), although imaging is not recommended solely to evaluate for malignancy, as it cannot rule out the diagnosis of many gynecologic malignancies, including leiomyosarcoma.2

Currently, no tests are available to completely exclude a preoperative diagnosis of leiomyosarcoma. While studies have evaluated the use of MRI combined with lactate dehydrogenase isoenzyme testing, the evidence is weak, and this method is not recommended. Sarcoma is detected by endometrial sampling only 30% to 60% of the time, but it should be performed if the patient meets criteria for sampling or if she has other risk factors for malignancy.16 There are no data to support biopsy of presumed benign fibroids prior to surgical intervention. Patients should be evaluated with a careful history and physical examination for other uterine sarcoma risk factors.

Employ shared decision making

Clinicians should use shared decision making with patients to facilitate decisions on morcellation use in gynecologic surgeries for suspected benign fibroids. Informed consent must be obtained after thorough discussion and counseling regarding the literature on morcellation.17 For all patients, including the case patient described, this discussion should include alternative treatment options, surgical approach with associated risks, the use of morcellation, the incidence of leiomyosarcoma with presumed benign fibroids, leiomyosarcoma prognosis, and the risk of disseminating benign or undiagnosed cancerous tissue throughout the abdomen and pelvis.

Some would argue that the risks of laparotomy outweigh the possible risks associated with morcellation during a minimally invasive myomectomy or hysterectomy. However, this risk analysis is not uniform across all patients, and it is likely that in older women, because they have an a priori increased risk of malignancy in general, including leiomyosarcoma, the risks of power morcellation may outweigh the risks of open surgery.18 Younger women have a much lower risk of leiomyosarcoma, and thus discussion and consideration of the patient’s age should be a part of counseling. If the case patient described was 70 years of age, power morcellation might not be recommended, but these decisions require an in-depth discussion with the patient to make an informed decision and ensure patient autonomy.

The contained morcellation approach

Many surgeons who perform minimally invasive procedures use contained morcellation. In this approach, specimens are placed in a containment bag and morcellated with either power instruments or manually to ensure no dissemination of tissue. Manual contained morcellation can be done through a minilaparotomy or the vagina, depending on the procedure performed, while power contained morcellation is performed through a 15-mm laparoscopic incision.

Continue to: Currently, one containment bag has been...

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