Most power morcellator cases have to do with the dangerous design of the technology, and the noted issues with the technology’s design have forced manufacturers into removing their products off the market. However, these safety measures came too late for many people, and especially women undergoing a hysterectomy or myomectomy. Even the FDA has called for immediate safety measures, and now recommends that doctors find an alternative method of removing problematic uterine tissue.
Until recently, these devices were used in as many as 600,000 hysterectomies a year, and at their peak, this represented about 12 percent of all hysterectomies. In most instances, these surgeries involved women affected by enlarged uteruses or fibroids. Fibroids are benign tumors that are extremely common, and may be present in as many as 80 percent of women by the time they turn 50. Usually, fibroids don’t cause any notable symptoms, but in some women, they can produce abdominal pain, cramping, or increased urination. This is typically the case when the fibroid is particularly large and needs to be removed.
These devices are designed to do just that, by mincing the affected tissue. Every device is made with a powerful but small blade and a vacuum system that is fed through a long tube. It’s designed to be used in laparoscopic procedures, which means it can be directed to the surgical site through a small incision. This reduces recovery time and pain following the procedure. During operation, the blade spins at an extremely high speed, tearing through the affected tissue. The vacuum is then engaged and sucks up the minced tissue through the tube and expels it out the other end, which remains outside of the patient.
While a technically simple technology, researchers now recognize serious complications associated with it. About one in 350 women have an undiscovered, aggressive cancer in their uterus, such as leiomyosarcoma. Even with extensive screening prior to treatment, these aggressive tumors can be nearly impossible to detect, and there may not be any symptoms present either. However, if the cancer is released during the procedure, it can spread aggressive cancer cells throughout the abdominal cavity, resulting in an explosion of deadly tumors that metastasize rapidly. This wouldn’t be as much of a concern if the device was 100 percent effective, but it rarely is. In nearly all patients, some tissue is left behind. When cancers are released by the device, survival rates drop precipitously.
Lawyers representing power morcellator cases assert that device manufacturers failed in their duty to provide a safe product, and that they continued to sell the device even after it was clear that it wasn’t safe. Some claims assert that manufacturers did not test their products enough prior to marketing them to doctors, and that these companies committed fraud by presenting their devices as safe to use.
Although the technology has quickly lost favor among healthcare professionals, the damage has already been done to numerous patients and their families. And for most, the only recourse is to consider legal action.