As with many other fields in this day and age, the field of medicine has experienced a wave of new technologies designed to improve techniques and minimize risks. In particular, the surgical field’s many advances serve to aid professionals in providing better surgical options while minimizing invasiveness and reducing recovery time. Unfortunately, sometimes advanced surgical tools present dangers unforeseen by their inventors as well as the governing bodies that approve them.
Currently, laparoscopic power morcellators appear to be among an ever-growing number of dangerous technological advances in surgical use today. Although they allegedly cause further health issues, surgeons continue to use them. What are laparoscopic power morcellators? What are their dangers?
Traditionally, surgeons removed cancerous tumors or uterine fibroids by cutting them out during open surgeries. As surgical technology improved, laparoscopy allowed surgeons to make much smaller incisions and perform surgeries by viewing the area through a tiny camera inserted through the incision. A tool known as a laparoscopic power morcellator operates similar to a tiny power drill, breaking up fibroids and affected tissues so surgeons can suction the tumor out through the laparoscopic incision rather than performing open surgery.
Laparoscopic power morcellators drastically reduced recovery times for fibroid removal patients. The smaller incisions reduced the chance of infection and caused patients less pain and quicker healing. However, issues quickly arose – issues experts say morcellator manufacturers knew of years ago, but failed to warn doctors, surgeons and patients.
During a uterine fibroid removal surgery, a laparoscopic power morcellator functions to break the fibroid into tiny pieces to suction out of the surgical area through the laparoscopic incision. Some of the fibroid cells may spread to other areas of the body after they disintegrate. Unfortunately, if a fibroid harbors a cancerous tumor – a relatively common occurrence – spreading the disintegrated tumor into the surrounding cells can also spread the cancerous cells and therefore cause the cancer to grow and propagate in the surrounding tissue.
In fact, as many as 1 in 350 women with fibroids also harbor uterine cancer, making the risks of spreading an unknown cancer relatively high with the use of a device like a laparoscopic power morcellator. Spreading the cancerous cells to other places in the body increases the likelihood that cancer will then spread to still other places, making the patient more likely to die as a result of the cancer. Multiple sources, from the FDA to the American Medical Association, to the Oncology Times now acknowledge the link between metastasized – or spread – cancer and laparoscopic power morcellators.
Laparoscopic power morcellator manufacturers were aware of the risks of cutting and fragmenting a cancerous tumor within the body as early as the first year the devices were on the market. However, companies continued to produce them and even produced new and updated versions of the devices via a new “fast track” system that allowed them to forgo continued approval for similar devices. Thus, no further testing occurred after the initial approval of the device.
At the same time, manufacturers also chose not to warn doctors and patients about the risks of morcellating a tumor inside the body. As a result, the devices remained in use long after independent researchers linked them to cancer. Many patients then suffered further metastasizing and worsening of their cancers.
Currently, morcellator manufacturers are experiencing hundreds of lawsuits from patients who suffered injury and metastasized cancer as the result of morcellator use. The lawsuits allege that manufacturers:
If you or a loved one experienced injury due to a laparoscopic power morcellator, contact a New York City personal injury attorney as soon as possible.