Written by Faith Anderson on January 15, 2015
Study Finds Hysterectomy Procedures May Be Unnecessary Nearly 20% of the Time
Women undergoing unnecessary hysterectomies with power morcellation may be at risk for the spread of aggressive uterine cancer.
New research has found that one out of every five women who undergoes hysterectomy surgery may not actually need the procedure, and that more than one-third of women undergoing hysterectomies are never presented with alternative treatment options. In a study published last month in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, researchers from the University of Michigan and Wayne State University found that 18% of hysterectomy procedures are unnecessary, when other treatments for problems like uterine fibroids could have been offered as alternatives. If you believe you have undergone an unnecessary hysterectomy, or if you have experienced a major side effect of the surgery, our consumer advocates at the Consumer Justice Foundation can help put you in touch with a reputable attorney today.
Hysterectomy Alternatives for Women
During a hysterectomy, all of part of the uterus is removed, and also sometimes the fallopian tubes and ovaries as well, which means a women who undergoes a hysterectomy is no longer able to bear children. The procedure is often the recommended course of action for women experiencing pelvic pain, endometriosis, or abnormal uterine bleeding (AUB), or for the removal of uterine fibroids, which are noncancerous growths of the uterus that sometimes appear during childbearing years. According to the findings of this new study, alternatives to a hysterectomy may include hormonal management, the use of an intrauterine device (IUD) that releases progestin, endometrial ablation or operative hysteroscopy.
Women Undergoing Unnecessary Hysterectomies
Researchers involved in the hysterectomy study examined data from 52 Michigan hospitals between January 1, 2013, and November 8, 2013, finding evidence of unnecessary hysterectomy procedures being performed in 18.3% of cases, or in 80,000 of the 400,000 hysterectomies performed in the United States each year. The researchers also found “no documentation of alternative treatment prior to hysterectomy in 37.7%” of cases, which means that more than one-third of women were offered no alternative treatment prior to undergoing a hysterectomy. “This study provides evidence that alternatives to hysterectomy are underutilized in women undergoing hysterectomy for AUB, uterine fibroids, endometriosis, or pelvic pain,” the researchers wrote.
Risk of Power Morcellation During Hysterectomies
This study comes amid increasing concerns about the potential health risks associated with power morcellators, which are surgical devices doctors sometimes use to cut up the uterus and uterine fibroids during hysterectomies, so they can be removed through a small incision in the abdomen. In April 2014, the FDA urged surgeons to stop using power morcellation during hysterectomy procedures, due to the risk that the devices may cause undiagnosed cancer contained within the uterus to be spread throughout the body. According to the FDA, approximately one in 350 women who undergo uterine fibroid removal surgery may have unsuspected sarcoma, and undergoing an unnecessary hysterectomy with power morcellation may result in the rapid upstaging of a very aggressive type of cancer in these women.