Morcellators: Medical Innovation Gone Wrong

Every year, advancing medical care and techniques improve the lives and recovery times of sick people and accident victims. Sometimes, advances in this field come with their own set of complications and problems. One such advancement is the morcellator, a device designed to break down large tissue masses into small fragments and commonly used during a hysterectomy (surgery to remove a woman’s uterus) or a myomectomy (surgery to remove noncancerous fibroids from the uterus). The morcellator has quickly rotating blades that break down the mass into tiny pieces, which are then vacuumed out of the body.[1]

Morcellators allow surgeons to perform these procedures through tiny incisions less than 2 centimeters long, ending the need for a major cut that could damage muscles and significantly increase the patient’s risk and recovery time. The type of morcellator currently in question is the laparoscopic morcellator, which performs its drilling and suction in an open environment. With this type of device, the vacuuming process is not 100% effective, allowing pieces of the mass being destroyed to “escape” and travel throughout the body. In some cases this is not dangerous, but if the mass in question is cancerous then the device allows it to spread easily and quickly, resulting in new tumors all over the body. Even some non-cancerous tissues can cause problems and complications if they spread to certain parts of the body.[2]

Patients with an undiagnosed uterine sarcoma cancer are at increased risk for having this cancer spread throughout their bodies by one of these devices. In 2014, the FDA warned “against using laparoscopic power morcellators in the removal of the uterus (hysterectomy) or fibroids (myomectomy) in the vast majority of women. “[3]  This warning, however, comes too late for hundreds of women who have already had the procedures performed using the dangerous equipment.

Fortunately, medical innovation has begun to address the problem with a new type of morcellator. Hysteroscopic morcellators use a tissue trap to capture tissue for testing, and the device runs off of mechanical rather than electrical power. Thus far, there have been no studies linking hysteroscopic morcellators to increased cancer rates.[4]

Morcellators offer a significant improvement over the risk and recovery time of older methods of performing these particular surgeries, and the recent development of an improved version of the technology is a hopeful sign. As always, discuss the risks of any surgical procedure with your doctor, and decide together on the best and safest way for you to proceed.

If you or a loved one has been injured through the use of a morcellator or other medical device, contact the medical malpractice attorneys at The Allen Law Firm at 866-388-1307 for a free consultation.

About The Author: Malcolm “Mic” McConnell is a personal injury lawyer who helps injured persons get the fair compensation they deserve. He is the lead Medical Malpractice attorney at the Allen Law Firm and has nearly 30 years of experience handling cases in a variety of medical specialties. Mic was named the Best Lawyers’ Medical Malpractice Law – Plantiffs “Lawyer of the Year” in 2016 and 2013.