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J&J Reminds Doctors to Avoid Hysterectomy Device

Update Date: Jul 31, 2014 11:07 AM EDT

Johnson & Johnson is once again reminding doctors to steer clear of certain medical tools used to take out growths from the uterus or perform a hysterectomy, which is a surgical procedure that removes a woman's uterus. According to the company, the devices have been linked to spreading a certain type of uterine cancer.

The devices in question are known as laparoscopic power morcellators. Back in April, J&J had suspended the sales of these items after the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommended doctors to stop using them out of fear that they can increase the risk of spreading a form of uterine cancer known as sarcoma to other regions of the body. One a cancer has spread, survival rates can quickly dip.

Despite the suspension of sales, J&J is aware of the fact that these devices could still be in use. In order to further reduce the risks involved with using the morcellators, the company is now urging doctors and medical facilities to return all purchased devices. The latest attempt to discourage doctors from using these devices came after a meeting between J&J and the FDA. J&J stated that the meeting reinforced "the complexity of this issue."

The morcellators are commonly used during hysterectomies and fibroid-removal surgery via a procedure call power morcellation. During this procedure, a morcellator is used to cut uterine tissue into pieces, which are then removed via small incisions. Overall the procedure is considered minimally invasive and relatively safe. However, when there are undetected cancer cells present, the morcellator ends up cutting into the tumors, helping them spread to other parts of the body.

In a recent study, researchers reported that about one in 350 women who under fibroid-removal surgery had undetected cancer. By performing the removal surgery with these devices, the undetected cancer could start spreading. In another recent study, researchers reported the risk of cancer spreading for women undergoing hysterectomies is one in 368.

In order to reduce these risks and improve women's survival rates, all morcellators need to be returned.

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