A power morcellator is a medical device used to break down body tissue into small pieces for easy removal in laparoscopic procedures. Laparoscopic procedures are less invasive, and consequently, pose less risk—at least under normal circumstances. However, when a power morcellator is used during a hysterectomy (or myomectomy), particularly where conducted to combat uterine fibroid, it poses a much greater risk than a more invasive procedure.
Uterine fibroids are a common tumor that grows in the wall of the uterus, most often completely benign in nature. Nevertheless, doctors may advise surgery to remove the uterus, or individual fibroids—myomectomy—where the fibroids do not respond to medication. The danger of introducing a power morcellator to facilitate the remove of the fibroid structures arises due to the manner in which the device breaks down body tissue. A power morcellator has a spinning blade that slices up tissue so it can be extracted through small incisions. Consequently, its use causes the dissemination of cells comprising the fibroid throughout the abdomen. Where the fibroid is completely benign, this does not pose very much of a risk, but where the fibroid does contain malignant cells, the procedure can lead to fatal consequences.
Although most fibroids are not cancerous, an aggressive type of uterine cancer, leiomyosarcoma, is known to present similarly. While the leiomyosarcoma cells are encapsulated in the fibroid, the cancer is at Stage I. However, if that fibroid is broken down by a power morcellator, those cancerous cells are spread throughout the abdomen, which may cause a rapid acceleration to Stage IV leiomyosarcoma. Stage IV leiomyosarcoma is extremely fatal, with a five-year survival rate of about 14%.
Johnson & Johnson issued a world-wide medical device recall for all power morcellation devices in July of 2014. Later that year, the FDA had manufacturers still producing the devices to include a black box warning label that use of the power morcellator during fibroid surgery may spread cancer and decrease the long-term survival of patients. Nevertheless, other companies continue to make the device, promoting them for continued use.
If you or a loved one contracted gynecologic cancer after the laparoscopic removal of uterine fibroids, contact the experienced lawyers at Neumann Law Group for a free case evaluation today.