Technical update on tissue morcellation during gynaecologic surgery: its uses, complications, and risks of unsuspected malignancy

Sukhbir S Singh, Stephanie Scott, Olga Bougie, Nicholas Leyland, Nicholas Leyland, Wendy Wolfman, Catherine Allaire, Alaa Awadalla, Annette Bullen, Margaret Burnett, Susan Goldstein, Madeleine Lemyre, Violaine Marcoux, Frank Potestio, David Rittenberg, Sukhbir S Singh, Grace Yeung, Paul Hoskins, Dianne Miller, Walter Gotlieb, Marcus Bernardini, Laura Hopkins
Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology Canada: JOGC, Journal D'obstétrique et Gynécologie du Canada: JOGC 2015, 37 (1): 68-81

OBJECTIVE: To review the use of tissue morcellation in minimally invasive gynaecological surgery.

OUTCOMES: Morcellation may be used in gynaecological surgery to allow removal of large uterine specimens, providing women with a minimally invasive surgical option. Adverse oncologic outcomes of tissue morcellation should be mitigated through improved patient selection, preoperative investigations, and novel techniques that minimize tissue dispersion.

EVIDENCE: Published literature was retrieved through searches of PubMed and Medline in the spring of 2014 using appropriate controlled vocabulary (leiomyomsarcoma, uterine neoplasm, uterine myomectomy, hysterectomy) and key words (leiomyoma, endometrial cancer, uterine sarcoma, leiomyosarcoma, morcellation, and MRI). Results were restricted to systematic reviews, randomized control trials/controlled clinical trials, and observational studies. There were no date limits but results were limited to English or French language materials. Searches were updated on a regular basis and incorporated in the guideline to August 2014. Grey (unpublished) literature was identified through searching the websites of health technology assessment and health technology assessment-related agencies, clinical practice guideline collections, clinical trial registries, and national and international medical specialty societies.

VALUES: The quality of evidence in this document was rated using the criteria described in the report of the Canadian Task Force on Preventive Health Care. (Table 1) BENEFITS, HARMS, AND COSTS: Gynaecologists may offer women minimally invasive surgery and this may involve tissue morcellation and the use of a power morcellator for specimen retrieval. Women should be counselled that in the case of unexpected uterine sarcoma or endometrial cancer, the use of a morcellator is associated with increased risk of tumour dissemination. Appropriate training and safe practices should be in place before offering tissue morcellation. SUMMARY STATEMENTS: 1. Uterine sarcomas may be difficult to diagnose preoperatively. The risk of an unexpected uterine sarcoma following surgery for presumed benign uterine leiomyoma is approximately 1 in 350, and the rate of leiomyosarcoma is 1 in 500. (II-2) This risk increases with age. (II-2) 2. An unexpected uterine sarcoma treated by primary surgery involving tumour disruption, including morcellation of the tumour, has the potential for intra-abdominal tumour-spread and a worse prognosis. (II-2) 3. Uterus-sparing surgery remains a safe option for patients with symptomatic leiomyomas who desire future fertility. (II-1) RECOMMENDATIONS: 1. Techniques for morcellation of a uterine specimen vary, and physicians should consider employing techniques that minimize specimen disruption and intra-abdominal spread. (III-C) 2. Each patient presenting with uterine leiomyoma should be assessed for the possible presence of malignancy, based on her risk factors and preoperative imaging, although the value of these is limited. (III-C) 3. Preoperative endometrial biopsy and cervical assessment to avoid morcellation of potentially detectable malignant and premalignant conditions is recommended. (II-2A) 4. Hereditary cancer syndromes that increase the risk of uterine malignancy should be considered a contraindication to uncontained uterine morcellation. (III-C) 5. Uterine morcellation is contraindicated in women with established or suspected cancer. (II-2A) If there is a high index of suspicion of a uterine sarcoma prior to surgery, patients should be advised to proceed with a total abdominal hysterectomy, bilateral salpingectomy, and possible oophorectomy. (II-2C) A gynaecologic oncology consultation should be obtained. 6. Tissue morcellation techniques require appropriate training and experience. Safe practice initiatives surrounding morcellation technique and the use of equipment should be implemented at the local level. (II-3B) 7. Morcellation is an acceptable option for retrieval of benign uterine specimens and may facilitate a minimally invasive surgical approach, which is associated with decreased perioperative risks. Each patient should be counselled about the possible risks associated with the use of morcellation, including the risks associated with underlying malignancy. (III-C).

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