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URMC to restrict certain hysterectomy procedures

Updated: Tuesday, March 25 2014, 08:18 AM EDT

Rochester, N.Y. -- The University of Rochester Medical Center will limit a common procedure that is used in many hysterectomies due to concerns that, in rare cases, it can spread cancer.

“This involves a very small percent of women (at risk),” said Dr. Bob Panzer, chief quality officer for URMC. “Yet more information is coming out about the need for restrictions to make it safer.”

The procedure is called morcellation. It involves using powered devices to break apart growths called fibroids so they can easily be removed through small incisions in the abdomen. 

The procedure is generally considered safer, with fewer side effects and less recovery time, than traditional surgery. The problem comes in if one of the fibroids in cancerous.  Breaking it apart can spread the cancer.

“It can be hidden in there,” said Dr. Panzer, who added doctors can’t always detect whether cancer is present before surgery. “Even if one woman has a cancer spread that might not have, that is something to be avoided."

A Boston doctor has started a campaign against the procedure. Dr. Hoomman Noorchashm said his wife did not know she had cancer and now it has spread. In a letter to URMC, he urged “a complete ban.”

“There is this risk and a few institutions have put restrictions in place to make it safer,” said Dr. Panzer. 

UR Medicine has become the first health system in the area to do the same.  

It will now restrict morcellation for use only when it can be done inside a containment bag to catch the pieces of the tumor as it is broken apart.  The new policy involved elective hysterectomies and takes effect Monday.

The medical center has sent a memo to all ob/gyn providers with privileges at its hospitals. Included are Strong Memorial, Highland and F.F. Thompson hospitals.

URMC to restrict certain hysterectomy procedures

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