Many product liability lawsuits being filed against the manufacturers of power morcellators. The injured women claim that patients and doctors should have been warned about the risks associated with use of the medical devices during minimally invasive, laparoscopic hysterectomies.
Power morcellators are medical devices that are used during laparoscopic hysterectomy and myomectomy procedures. The device allows the surgeon to grind up the uterus or uterine fibroids and remove the tissue through a small incision in the abdomen. The medical device is used during minimally invasive surgery, and reduces recovery time, scarring and speeds up recovery time.
Morcellators Approved Under the 510(k) Program
The controversial 510(k) program allows medical devices to be approved without pre-market testing requirements. Under the program, the manufacturer just needs to show that the devices are “substantially equivalent” to devices already on the market. Power morcellators were approved under the 510(k) process without any safety testing.
Ethicon Morcellator Recall
All Ethicon power morcellators were recalled by the manufacturer, earlier last year. J&J, acknowledged that the devices pose an unreasonable risk of disseminating uterine cancer. Ethicon, a J&J subsidiary requested that hospitals voluntarily return all laparoscopic surgery morcellators. The company, noted that it will no longer sell the devices since there is no way to make them safe.
Morcellator Black Box Warning
The FDA announced November 24, 2014 that it is adding a black box warning to uterine morcellator devices that remain on the market. A BLACK BOX WARNING, is the strongest warning that can be placed on any medical device. Patients, doctors and hospitals are now on notice of the potential danger of increased uterine cancer spread risk associated with the use of these devices.
Furthermore, the FDA announced that power morcellators should not be used with women near menopause or post-menopausal, or in women who could have tissue removed through the vagina or via a small incision.
This contraindication prohibits the use of the devices in the vast majority of women who undergo laparoscopic or vaginal uterine morcellation procedures.
Power Morcellators Under the Gun
Power morcellators have been under under fire since the well-publicized case of anesthesiologist Amy Reed, who underwent a hysterectomy, for fibroid removal in October 2013. Dr Reed, then discovered that power morcellation had spread an undiagnosed uterine leiomyosarcoma.
The FDA’s warnings last year triggered a widescale retreat from tissue morcellation. Johnson & Johnson voluntarily withdrew its morcellators from the market because of cancer “uncertainty.”
The hospital chain HCA Holdings prohibited their use at its facilities for removing uterine fibroids.
Highmark, a health insurer in the eastern United States, stopped paying for laparoscopic power morcellation in gynecologic procedures.
In February 2015, United Healthcare announced that, it would require preauthorization for all hysterectomies other than vaginal procedures performed on an outpatient basis.
Most recently, health insurer Aetna announced that it will no longer cover most hysterectomies and myomectomies that utilize power morcellators to remove uterine fibroid tumors “because the safety and efficacy of this approach has not been demonstrated.”
Power Morcellator Cancer Litigation
Many complaints have been filed in the federal court system nationwide. These women were diagnosed with the spread of leiomyosarcoma, endometrial stromal sarcoma or other cancers following uterine fibroid surgery.
All of the lawsuits filed against manufacturers of these devices claim that hysterectomy morcellators are unreasonably dangerous and that information about the risk of uterine cancer being spread was withheld from the patients and doctors.