NEW YORK, N.Y. — A report by the Wall Street Journal revealed that the AAGL’s support of the now maligned power morcellator was possibly influenced by industry money.
The power morcellator is a once-popular surgical device that was used to remove uterine fibroids or to perform hysterectomies in thousands of women. The device is a series of circular blades that shred up uterine fibroid tissue and draw out the shreds through a small incision in the abdomen. It has been found however that the device unknowingly spreads a frequently dormant but very aggressive form of cancer that is often mistaken for harmless fibroids. When the power morcellator shreds the tissue, the cancerous cells are spread throughout other parts of the body and quickly infect the patient.
After receiving more and more reports of women being diagnosed with deadly sarcoma shortly after receiving the procedure, the FDA issued a safety communication notice in April 2014 discouraging the use of the power morcellation for the removal of the uterus or uterine fibroids.
However, shortly after the FDA’s announcement the AAGL (formerly known as the American Association of Gynecologic Laparoscopists) released a report stating that power morcellation “remains safe when performed by experienced, high-volume surgeons.” The AAGL is highly respected and many doctors used the report as guidance with regards to the use of power morcellators. What was unknown at the time was an executive officer of AAGL received consulting fees from power morcellator manufacturers prior to weighing in on the report’s publication. Dr. Arnold Advincula was involved in the board’s final discussion on the power morcellator report despite the clear violation of conflict of interest policies.
Effect of the Report
Arguably the AAGL’s report convinced doctors that power morcellators were still safe despite the increasing number of cases of women suffering serious complications, particularly cancer, after receiving morcellation treatment. A November 24, 2014 update from the FDA reinforced the dangers of the power morcellator as it made clear that the use of power morcellation put women at a high risk of spreading previously undiagnosed cancer and that the device should not be used in hysterectomies or the removal of uterine fibroids.
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