An estimated 500,000 women per year get hysterectomies in the United States. The procedure has changed in recent years, enabling doctors to remove the uterus through a small incision in the belly button, and reducing the recovery time from 6 weeks to a matter of days. During the procedure, the uterus is pulverized, and the remnants extracted through the abdomen, a process called morcellation.
While this is a great benefit to many patients, for a small number of women (the exact number is not known), the hysterectomy turns deadly. Prior to the surgery, women are tested for various cancers. Most are detectable preoperatively, but some are not. In cases where women have the beginnings of certain uterine cancers, the morcellation process spreads the cancerous cells throughout the abdomen, turning a very treatable disease into a likely fatal one. It was once believed that this situation would affect only 1 in 10,000 patients. Based on new research, the number is likely closer to 1 in 400.
Surgeons can insert a bag during the procedure, so that the pulverized organ is encapsulated and any potentially cancerous cells are contained during the removal from the body. This modification requires additional training, and additional time, which means the cost of the procedure would rise. For many, however, it is a cost well worth it.
Read more on the USA Today.