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First large study on the risk of cancer spread using power morcellation pinpoints risk of uterine malignancy

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Approximately one in 368 women undergoing hysterectomy have undetected uterine cancer, according to a new study, which did not specify the types of uterine malignancies identified. The FDA had estimated that one in 352 women have a uterine sarcoma, a category that includes leiomyosarcoma.



Among women who undergo minimally invasive hysterectomy with electric power morcellation, the rate of uterine cancer is 27 cases per 10,000 women at the time of the procedure, according to a recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.1 That figure translates into approximately one case of undetected uterine cancer in every 368 women undergoing hysterectomy. Earlier this year the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) estimated the prevalence of uterine sarcoma at one case in every 352 women.2

Leading up to publication of this study in late July, there had been concern and considerable discussion—including a 2-day hearing convened by the FDA— about whether power morcellation may result in the spread of undetected malignancies and, if so, how often that may occur.

Although power morcellators have been available commercially for two decades, accurate estimates of the prevalence of malignancy at the time of power morcellation have been lacking.

Jason D. Wright, MD, and colleagues from Columbia University used the Perspective database, a large insurance database, to investigate the prevalence of underlying cancer in women who underwent uterine morcellation during minimally invasive hysterectomy from 2006 to 2012. This database is an “all-payer” database that includes more than 500 hospitals in the United States, many of them urban teaching centers.

The cohort included 232,882 women who underwent minimally invasive hysterectomy, including 36,470 (15.7%) who had uterine morcellation during the procedure. Among women who underwent morcellation, 99 cases of uterine cancer were identified, a prevalence of 27 cases per 10,000 women (95% confidence interval [CI], 22–32).

Among women who underwent power morcellation, the prevalence of underlying cancer and endometrial hyperplasia increased with age. For example, compared with women younger than 40 years, the prevalence ratio for uterine malignancy was:

  • 4.97 (95% CI, 1.91–12.93) in women aged 50 to 54 years
  • 19.37 (95% CI, 7.66–48.95) in those aged 55 to 59 years
  • 21.36 (95% CI, 7.22–63.21) in women aged 60 to 64
  • 35.97 (95% CI, 14.14–91.53) in women aged 65 or older.

“Prevalence information is the first step in determining the risk of spreading cancer with morcellation,” Wright and colleagues observe. “Patients considering morcellation should be adequately counseled about the prevalence of cancerous and precancerous conditions prior to undergoing the procedure.”

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