(Reuters) - HCA Holdings Inc, the largest for-profit U.S. hospital operator, said a procedure for removing uterine fibroids that has been linked to the spread of cancer will no longer be performed at its facilities.

The surgical technique involves use of a laparoscopic power morcellator device that pulverizes tissue before it is extracted from the uterus through a small opening. Morcellation is the mincing or pulverization of tissue to make it easier to remove.

HCA's decision follows new guidelines for the devices issued Monday by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

"We are implementing a prohibition of the use of power morcellation in laparoscopic uterine surgery," an HCA spokesman said Tuesday in an email.

FDA said the devices should not be used to remove tissue containing fibroids in patients who are peri- or post-menopausal, or whose fibroids can be removed intact through the vagina or a small incision.

The technique can cause injury to surrounding tissue and organs and spread unsuspected malignant tissue to places outside the uterus.

Johnson & Johnson's Ethicon unit, the biggest maker of morcellator devices, has suspended sales of the product.

The Nashville, Tennessee-based company operates 165 hospitals and 113 surgical centers.


(Reporting by Susan Kelly in Chicago; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)