Power Morcellation and Cancer Risks

by Terry Bryant

For years, regulators and some members of the medical community have known that a certain procedure performed on women with uterine fibroids carries the risk of spreading cancerous tissue. Despite the warning signs presented to manufacturers and regulators, the procedure was common practice and is still used in some facilities. It’s possible that thousands of women have died as a result. The crux of the issue centers around the use of a device called the power morcellator.

What is a Power Morcellator?

Power morcellators are medical devices used in minimally invasive surgeries to remove uterine fibroids, noncancerous growths that develop from the muscular tissue of the uterus. These growths can be removed via a hysterectomy or a myomectomy. A power morcellator divides tissue into smaller pieces, which are then removed through small incision sites.

Why It’s Dangerous

The problem is that if this tissue being divided is cancerous, power morcellation can spread the cancer to other parts of the woman’s body. It’s nearly impossible for doctors to know whether a woman with fibroids has cancerous tissue before performing this procedure. That’s why many safety advocates in the medical community believe that these power morcellation devices should be used rarely, if at all.

One of the biggest advocates against the use of power morcellators is Dr. Hooman Noorchashm, whose wife underwent one of these procedures in 2013. Noorchashm’s wife, Dr. Amy Reed, had the rare cancer leiomyosarcoma, which was spread by the power morcellator. Neither Reed nor Noorchashm was told before the procedure that a power morcellator would be used. Reed has been fighting the cancer ever since, emerging from a coma in April 2017.

Many other women – potentially thousands of them, according to Noorchashm – have likely lost their lives because of power morcellation. The FDA received complaints about adverse events of power morcellation, some of which date back to the 1980s, but underestimated the risk, putting women’s lives in danger.

A Failure to Protect Women Undergoing These Procedures

The FDA clearly should have done more to raise awareness about the dangers of power morcellation. The manufacturers of these devices were also aware of the risks. Johnson & Johnson pulled their power morcellators in 2014, and many major hospitals stopped performing the procedures. But power morcellation was not banned, and these devices are still used today, despite the dangers they present to women.

The FDA said that these devices must now contain a warning and that patients should be made aware of the risks involved. But for many safety advocates like Noorchashm, this doesn’t solve the problem. Because there is no pre-operation test to detect the aggressive cancer which this device can spread, it will still be a roll of the dice for the women who undergo procedures using power morcellation.

Women who have leiomyosarcoma and have undergone a hysterectomy or a myomectomy should consult with an attorney to consider their legal options. At Terry Bryant Accident & Injury Law, we help people who have suffered harm because of faulty medical devices. We know how difficult and overwhelming a serious illness can be for our clients, and we make sure that they receive exceptional service and get the compensation they deserve.

To schedule a free consultation with Terry Bryant Accident & Injury Law, contact us today by filling out our online contact form or giving us a call at 1 (800) 444-5000 or locally in the Houston area at (713) 973-8888.