Did you develop cancer after a hysterectomy or fibroid removal?Get a free case evaluation!
What is a Power Morcellator?
A power morcellator is a surgical device used in laparoscopic surgery to remove a portion of tissue.
This tool functions by cutting away small portions of tissue that can be removed through an incision. Power morcellators are most commonly known for their use in surgical removal of the uterus, known as hysterectomy.
In 2014, the FDA officially released warnings that power morcellators can spread undiagnosed cancer in surgeries, causing several manufacturers to officially recall their products and many victims to file lawsuits for their damages
Why Power Morcellators Were Used
Power morcellators are used in laparoscopic surgery, named for its use of a long fiber with a camera attached at its end (laparoscope), which allows the surgeon to view the surgical area inside the body. A surgery of this type can be accomplished with a series of small incisions, and because it involves less tissue damage, the patient’s recovery is more rapid. Without a power morcellator a hysterectomy could not be completed in this minimally invasive way. However, due to the risks of spreading cancer, the FDA has discouraged the use of many power morcellators in hysterectomies and fibroid removal surgeries.
What is a Hysterectomy?
Hysterectomy is a procedure by which the uterus is surgically removed. Minimally invasive power morcellators may be used in a hysterectomy in order to decrease recovery times. However, if cancer is present in the uterus, the morcellator can spread the cancer to healthy tissue.
What Are Uterine Fibroids?
Uterine fibroids are abnormal, benign tissue growths developing within the muscle layer of the uterus. Though normally benign fibroids may contain undiagnosed cancer cells that can spread through morcellation.
How Morcellators Spread Cancer
When a power morcellator breaks down fibroid or uterine tissue, there is a risk that this tissue may contain undiagnosed cancer.
As this tissue is broken down, small clumps of cancerous cells that were once contained in the morcellated tissue can be left behind in the abdominal cavity where the cancer can spread to otherwise healthy tissue.
By breaking up the undiagnosed cancer and spreading it through the abdominal cavity, the power morcellator helps the cancer form multiple cancerous growths which makes it much more difficult to effectively treat.
A recent study has said that one in 368 women who underwent a hysterectomy where morcellation was used between 2006 and 2012 developed uterine cancer.
Types of Morcellators
There are essentially two different types of power morcellators:
- Laparoscopic morcellators
- Hysteroscopic morcellators
Laparoscopic morcellators are the tool of concern in regard to the FDA warning about the possible spread of cancer following morcellation.
The same warning has not been applied to hysteroscopic morcellators because their design includes a trap or bag into which the morcellated tissue is gathered, which prevents the spread of that tissue to other parts of the abdominal cavity.
FDA Morcellator Warnings and Manufacturer Recalls
Because of the increased cancer risk associated with morcellator use, the FDA released multiple warnings in 2014 encouraging medical professionals to halt the use of these devices in the removal of uterine fibroids.
Johnson & Johnson Morcellator Recall
Johnson & Johnson subsequently halted sales and distribution of power morcellators, and has issued a recall on three different models of the device since that time.
Power Morcellator Lawsuits
The families of Barbara Leary and Brenda Leuzzi testified in the FDA hearings leading to this recall, both of whom are now deceased due to the spread of cancer following surgery involving power morcellators.
As a result of these and the experiences of many other individuals, lawsuits have been filed based on the following complaints:
- Failure to warn of risks and complications associated with morcellation
- Production and distribution of a product that is unsafe and unfit for its intended use
- Lack of proper safety testing prior to releasing the product to market
- Failure to remove the product from the market once health risks were known