A once promising innovation in medical instrumentation, the FDA announced a warning that the laparoscopic power morcellator (LPM) may spread cancer cells and issued a recall on three of Johnson and Johnson’s devices. This spreading of cancerous cells is said to take place during the course of surgery.

WHAT IS AN LPM?

Since 1993, the use of electric LPMs afforded patients undergoing hysterectomies, the removal of uterine fibroids, kidney or spleen operations minimally invasive surgery with diminished blood loss and quicker recovery times. Through a small incision in the abdomen, the LPM is inserted into the patient’s body where it then breaks up damaged tissue (such as fibroids) with rotating blades.  The disseminated tissue is then easily removed from the patient’s body through the small incision.

RISKS THAT PROMPTED THE MORCELLATOR RECALL

Prior to uterine surgery or removal, women are required to undergo screenings designed to detect and diagnose any potential existing malignancies. These preoperative tests can alert physicians to many, but not all, cancers. Some of the most aggressive ones, like leiomyosarcoma, may remain undetected. The FDA has found that LPM surgery performed on undetected malignant tissue can cause serious risk to the patient’s health and life. It is believed that the device’s spinning action may spread diseased cells to other organs and throughout the patient’s abdomen. The risk of “seeding” cancer cells, according to the FDA, is 1 in 350.

Considering that as many as 50,000 LPM surgeries are performed each year, numerous patients have been affected by the spread of uterine and other malignancies that had previously been contained and subsequently aggravated by the device. Several deaths have also been linked to LPM.

PROTECTING PATIENTS’ RIGHTS

Johnson & Johnson, the leader in power morcellator sales, investigates the cancer link and issues a recall, as more data is being gathered regarding the risk of LPMs. Lawsuits have been filed around the country in an attempt to secure justice for the victims. A product liability attorney may be able to obtain financial compensation for medical expenses, pain and suffering, and loss of quality of life. Individuals who suspect that they have suffered side effects from surgery using the LPM may want to consider retaining the services of an experienced lawyer for a case evaluation and possible litigation.

LPM surgeries can harbor serious dangers for patients, and the research showing that the morcellator may spread cancer shows why a recall was necessary. Unsuspecting victims don’t have to deal with the consequences alone. A product liability attorney may be able to help.