Posted on Wednesday, October 8th, 2014 at 10:00 pm
Just last April, the FDA discouraged the use of power morcellators to break up and remove uterine fibroids during laparoscopic surgery. Laparoscopic power morcellation is a process by which a morcellator breaks up uterine tissue into fragments that may then be removed through a small incision in the patient’s abdomen. Prior to the FDA’s recommendation, these devices were widely used throughout the medical community to perform minimally invasive laparoscopic surgeries.
Concerned by studies that reported 1 in 350 women who underwent surgeries utilizing a power morcellator were at risk of having previously unsuspected cancerous tissue beyond the uterus, the FDA formally discouraged the use of these devices. Additionally, a number of prominent hospitals—including Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Philadelphia’s Temple University Hospital—announced moratoriums on the devices amid concerns of these potential side-effects.
Despite the FDA’s recommendation, the Wall Street Journal reports that many gynecologists have continued to make use of laparoscopic power morcellators for patient surgeries. These doctors argue that the FDA has overblown the risks of unknown cancer being accidentally spread in a patient’s body, further suggesting that the FDA has only scared women away from a procedure that would benefit them. For instance, the FDA estimated the procedure was performed around 50,000 times a year.
While laparoscopic surgery does offer quicker recovery times, less bleeding, and a lesser risk of infection, there are a number of other minimally invasive procedures that do not require morcellation. Notably, even proponents of laparoscopic surgery admit there is a risk of an unknown cancer being spread, but that through careful screening the risk is extremely low.
With the availability of other minimally invasive procedures, though, it is difficult to argue that even a minimal risk of spreading a hidden cancer to other parts of the body is not worth the otherwise limited benefits of this procedure. Recently, it has been announced that several law firms are pursuing morcellator lawsuits, including the Houston attorneys at Williams Kherkher.