Power morcellators are essentially small power tools that can be used to remove fibroids in the uterus by cutting uterine tissue during surgery. They are manufactured by several companies, including Olympus, Karl Storz, Blue Endo, and Ethicon (a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson).
However, there is a concern that, in the process of cutting the tissue, they could end up spreading tumor parts to other areas of the body if that tissue contains cancerous cells, resulting in leiomyosarcoma, myelosarcoma, and uterine sarcoma.
Last November, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a black-box warning on power morcellator devices, indicating that they could spread and worsen undetected cancerous uterine tumors.
Recent Studies & Bans
A recent study reported in JAMA Oncology this month indicated that the likelihood of the device spreading tumors is lower than previously expected. This new study hinged on how safe these devices are specifically for women who have a higher likelihood of having hidden cancer (a likelihood that increases with age).
Still, power morcellators remain under restricted use, and some hospitals have even banned them. Johnson & Johnson has stopped sales and distribution of the devices. Doctors recommend asking questions and looking into other options for fibroid removal before you approve the use of a power morcellator. Studies particularly caution using the surgical approach in women older than 50 and maintain that power morcellators were widely used despite a lack of data associated cancer risk.
For Hooman Noorchasm, the physician who has been pushing for a ban on power morcellators since his wife’s 2013 diagnosis with uterine cancer, this study misses the point. He characterized it as “sugar-coating” the practice, which can be described as “an avoidable hazard.”
The number of hospitals that have banned the device and the risk factors still indicate that power morcellators do pose a risk. Women who believe that their cancer diagnosis was made worse as a result of their choice to undergo a less invasive fibroid surgery or hysterectomy are currently filing lawsuits.
One lawsuit filed alleges that, after undergoing a surgical procedure known as a Robot-assisted supracervical hysterectomy and bilateral salpingectomy with uterine morcellation, one victim was informed that she had cancer (while there was no prior evidence of disseminated and/or metastatic cancer/disease), and she passed away within one year. In this sense, the companies that manufactured power morcellators are accused of carelessness, recklessness, gross negligence, and willful, wanton, outrageous and reckless disregard for human life and safety in manufacturing, designing, labeling, marketing, distributing, supplying and/or selling these products. Failing to conduct adequate and appropriate testing of these products and putting them out on the market without first conducting this testing is part of this negligence.