A surgical tool used to perform laparoscopic hysterectomies and myomectomies (removal of fibroid growths) is being blamed on spreading of undetected uterine cancer and worsening the odds of survival.
Power morcellators are handheld surgical tools that are generally used with a tube-shaped blade. The device grinds up benign uterine growths or entire uteruses inside the pelvic cavity and then removes them through small incisions in the abdomen. This procedure is often preferred over open surgery because it is less invasive, offers shorter recovery time, and less scarring.
Uterine fibroids are benign, but on rare occasions there can be leiomyosarcoma – a type of uterine cancer – present. If these tumors are ground within the body during power morcellation, bits of cancerous tissue can seed within the body and spread tumors, making treatment more difficult.
Unfortunately, it is not possible to detect leiomyosarcoma before the fibroids or uterus is removed. Though the risk of cancer being present is low, if morcellation is performed, the cancer will be spread in an estimated 64 percent of women. Morcellation of the more frequent benign tumors can also spread non-cancerous tumors within the body. While this is not generally a deadly condition, it is frequently inoperable and thus painful and difficult to manage.
Surgeons who perform these procedures are playing a game of Russian roulette with their patients, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned in April 2014, and urged doctors who continue to use the devices to warn women of the risks before the procedure is performed.
Several lawsuits have been filed against the manufacturers of power morcellators claiming they knew of the serious risks associated with the devices but failed to adequately warn doctors or patients.