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Morcellator use on fibroids spreads cancer without surgical error

Women who have uterine fibroids sometimes have to undergo surgical treatment for those fibroids. A tool that is commonly used, the laparoscopic power morcellator, recently came under fire by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The morcellator is a drill-type device that has a spinning blade used to cut up fibroids. This enables the surgeon to remove the pieces through small incisions. While these have been used in thousands of surgeries, both fibroid removals and hysterectomies, the FDA has released a warning that the device could spread cancer.

The FDA hasn't banned morcellators because there are still situations in which these devices might be appropriate. The agency did call on the makers of the device to include warnings that the device shouldn't be used in certain instances, such as when a woman has gone through menopause or is in the transition to menopause. The FDA also recommends that a black-box warning be placed on the device as a warning about the possibility of worsening or spreading cancer.

Based on that warning from the FDA, HCA Holdings, Inc., which has centers in Fairfax, Virginia, that are near Washington, District of Columbia, has prohibited the device's use in its 115 surgery centers and 160 hospitals. The for-profit chain previously allowed doctors to use the devices, but urged caution. The prohibition is a significant shift in protocol.

For some women, this information might have come too late. Women who have experienced a spread of cancer or a worsening of cancer might have serious health impacts. For these women and their family members, seeking compensation might help to alleviate some of the financial strain of having to go through treatments because of a cancer related to the use of the morcellator.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, "Hospital Chain HCA Prohibits Power Morcellation for Uterine Fibroids" Jon Kamp, Dec. 16, 2014

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