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Legacy in the news: Legacy Gyn weighs in on controversial morcellation procedure

Portland Business Journal

June 16, 2014

A Portland-area gynecologist is speaking out in favor of a surgical technique that has drawn warnings from federal health officials because it can increase a woman’s risk of cancer.

The technique, known as power morcellation, uses a power tool inserted through tiny incisions to grind up uterine fibroids, which are non-cancerous growths on the wall of the uterus. The chopped-up material then can be removed through those incisions.

The technique also can be used in hysterectomies. “It allows many women to have minimally invasive surgery to remove large fibroids and uteri, with less pain, blood loss, and a shorter recovery,” said Dr. Melissa Pendergrass, a gynecologist and expert in minimally invasive surgeries at Legacy Medical Group-Women’s Specialties in West Linn.

Women are usually back to work and normal activity within one to two weeks following the procedure, Pendergrass said. “In the old days, women automatically were given large and painful incisions, and could expect at least a 6-week recovery,” she said.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued in April a warning regarding the use of power morcellation. About one in 350 women undergoing fibroid removal or a hysterectomy have a type of cancer called uterine sarcoma. If a surgeon performs power morcellation on these women, there’s a risk the procedure will flood the minced cancerous tissue throughout the patient’s abdomen and pelvis. The agency did not ban the devices from the market, but urged physicians and patients to weigh the risk. About 60,000 of these procedures are performed every year, the FDA estimates.

The FDA took action after concerns were raised by doctors at the Cleveland Clinic and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. Both hospitals have strengthened their informed consent for the procedure to include a warning about the cancer risk.

But Pendergrass noted that the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology and the American Academy of Gynecologic Laparoscopists both released statements that the risks of morcellation are generally outweighed by all of the benefits.

“The take-home message is that it is crucial for you to discuss this issue with your gynecologist, because morcellation may be the best option for you, and it shouldn’t be discounted by what you read in the media,” Pendergrass said.

To read the origianl article, click here.

For questions, contact Ashley Stanford Cone.