Dangers of using laparoscopic power morcellators

Technological advances often come with downsides—even medical devices approved for use by the FDA. A prime example involves the use of power morcellators during surgery.

Medical technology has advanced significantly over the years. Today, many surgical procedures, such as laparoscopy, are much less evasive and require minimal recovery time.

Technological advances, however, often come with downsides-even medical devices approved for use by the Food and Drug Administration. (The federal agency part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services responsible for regulating and supervising food, drugs, and medical devices.)

A prime example involves the use of power morcellators during surgery. Media outlets have profiled these medical devices in recent months because they are allegedly linked to causing serious health problems for patients.

Understanding the power morcellator

A power morcellator is essentially similar to a carpenter's power tool. But the instrument is used by doctors during surgical procedures like laparoscopy, a type of surgery that uses a tiny camera.

The device looks like a small, cylinder-shaped object with sharp, rotating edges at the bottom. It's inserted through a tiny incision, or laparoscopic opening, and breaks up large pieces of tissue. The tissue is thereafter sucked up through the incision and discarded.

Although it's touted as aiding in minimally evasive surgical procedures, it's been linked to causing problems such as the spread of undetected cancer cells. But how?

Spreading cancer cells

When the morcellator is inserted into the patient and chops up the tissue, smaller particles often scatter among the patient's pelvic cavity. If undetected cancerous tissue is present at the time the procedure is performed, those cancer cells will spread and attach themselves to other organs or areas of the body.

Even when the tissue is benign (cells that lack the inability to metastasize into other areas of the body), the device has been known to still cause problems. Hospitals and patients have reported infections, damage to surrounding vascular structures, parasitic growth of leftover tissue, and bowl impairment, among others.

Warnings

The FDA is aware of the dangers the device poses and is conducting further evaluation. The agency has advised surgeons to refrain from utilizing all power morcellators until further notice. The American Congress of Obstetrician and Gynecologists-a nonprofit association made up of 55,000 board certified obstetrician-gynecologists-has also instigated its own inquiry into the hazards.

Legal advocacy

Unfortunately, many patients who have suffered injury as a result of the use of a morcellator during a surgical procedure, were not informed or aware of the device's potential dangers.

Those injured are encouraged to consult with an experienced attorney. A lawyer can discuss the law and potential legal avenues as they pertain to individual circumstances.

Keywords: power morcellator, cancer