Uterine fibroids are non-cancerous growths in the uterus. They are very common and can cause symptoms such as heavy or prolonged menstrual bleeding, pelvic cramps, and frequent urination. If these symptoms are severe enough, a woman may opt for treatment or removal of the uterine fibroids via hysterectomy or laparoscopic surgery. Though both of these surgical procedures remove uterine fibroids and require an incision in the lower abdomen, laparoscopic surgery uses smaller incisions and requires that the fibroid or uterine tissue be broken down into smaller pieces prior to removal. Laparoscopic surgery is marketed as being more cost-effective, less invasive than an open abdominal hysterectomy, and promises a shorter recovery time for the patient.
Until recently, power morcellators, a surgical tool manufactured by Johnson & Johnson, were used to break up the fibroids and uterine tissue intrauterinely prior to laparoscopic removal. After public debate and an FDA investigation Johnson & Johnson, the manufacturers of the surgical tool, pulled the device from hospitals as early July 2014. At one time it was estimated that only 1 in 10,000 women with uterine fibroids were at risk for actually having uterine sarcoma, but after a high profile case in Boston in 2014, the FDA has said that women undergoing surgery for fibroids have a 1 in 350 risk that the growths are actually cancerous. The process of using this tool to break up fibroid or uterine tissue before removing it laparoscopically has been found to inadvertently spread unknown malignancies and other disease tissue throughout the body. Before pulling the tool from hospitals, the FDA estimated that it was being used in 50,000 hysterectomies a year not including use during the removal of fibroids.
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