Uterine morcellation is commonly performed intracorporeally by gynecologists to remove the uterus through small incisions. Most commonly, morcellation is performed to reduce the size of an enlarged uterus so that it may be removed through small laparoscopic incisions or through the vagina, thus minimizing the morbidity of a larger “open” incision. However, power morcellation or other techniques that cut up the uterus in the abdomen have the potential to disseminate an otherwise contained malignancy throughout the abdominal cavity. For this reason, the Society of Gynecologic Oncology (SGO) asserts that it is generally contraindicated in the presence of documented or highly suspected malignancy, and may be inadvisable in premalignant conditions or risk-reducing surgery.
Patients being considered for minimally invasive surgery performed by laparoscopic or robotic techniques who might require intracorporeal morcellation should be appropriately evaluated for the possibility of coexisting uterine or cervical malignancy. Other options to intracorporeal morcellation include removing the uterus through a mini-laparotomy or morcellating the uterus inside a laparoscopic bag.
Uterine leiomyomas are a common indication for power morcellation. Fewer than one out of 1000 women who undergo hysterectomy for leiomyomas will have an underlying malignancy. The SGO recognizes that currently there is no reliable method to differentiate benign from malignant leiomyomas (leiomyosarcomas or endometrial stromal sarcomas) before they are removed. Furthermore, these diseases offer an extremely poor prognosis even when specimens are removed intact.
Patients and doctors should communicate about the risks, benefits and alternatives of all procedures so that a patient is able to make an informed and voluntary decision about accepting or declining medical care (ACOG Committee Opinion 439 Informed Consent).