If you or a loved one developed cancer after undergoing a procedure in which a power morcellator was used, contact Attorney Group today for more information. We provide free, confidential, no obligation consultations. We can help answer your questions and inform you of your options. If you choose to pursue a claim, we can connect you with an affiliated morcellator cancer lawsuit attorney who can assist you throughout the legal process.
Have You Seen a Morcellator Lawsuit Commercial?
You may have seen a morcellator lawsuit commercial on television and have questions about these cases. The purpose of this article is to provide information related to morcellator lawsuits. If you have additional questions, or if you or a loved one thinks you have a claim, contact us for more information.
What is a Power Morcellator?
According to Wikipedia, a morcellator is a surgical instrument used for division and removal of large masses of tissues during laparoscopic surgery. In laparoscopic hysterectomy the uterus is minced up, or morcellated, into smaller pieces inside the woman’s belly cavity in order to extract from the abdomen. It can consist of a hollow cylinder that penetrates the abdominal wall, ending with sharp edges or cutting jaws, through which a grasper can be inserted to pull the mass into the cylinder to cut out an extractable piece.
How Does a Morcellator Work?
Laparoscopic morcellation is commonly used at surgery to remove bulky specimens from the abdomen using minimally invasive techniques. Historically, morcellation was performed using a device that required the surgeon or assistant to manually ‘squeeze’ the handle. Other reports describe using a scalpel directly through the abdomen to create small specimens that can be drawn out of the abdominal cavity. In 1993, the first electric morcellator was introduced in the US market. It was initially used for uterine extraction, but later applied to other organs.
Risk of Injury
Open power morcellation of the uterus and uterine tumors has the advantage of permitting the removal of large tissue masses through small laparoscopic incisions. The advantages of using laparoscopic approaches compared to laparotomy to treat uterine tumors include: lower risk of surgical site infection, less blood loss, less postoperative pain, and more rapid return to full activities. However, when used to treat tumors presumed to be fibroids, open power morcellation is associated with an increased risk of dispersing tissue throughout the abdominal cavity, which may result in a Stage I cancer being upstaged to a Stage IV malignancy, requiring additional surgery and chemotherapy.
What are the Risks of Power Morcellators?
Despite decades of experience, there remains limited understanding of the short-term and long-term sequelae of morcellation. Concerns have been raised about injury to surrounding organs including bowel, bladder, ureters, pancreas, spleen and major vascular structures. Long-term issues may include parasitic growth of retained tissue with the potential to cause adhesions, cause bowel dysfunction and potentially disseminate unrecognized cancer.
In a traditional myomectomy or hysterectomy procedure, a doctor makes incisions that are between three and seven inches long that allow him or her to remove the uterus intact. However, the procedure often requires several days in the hospital and may leave long scars. Women commonly undergo these procedures to remove fibroids, or benign growths.
A less invasive approach that may result in reduced recovery times involves the use of a device called a laparoscopic morcellator. The device includes a blade that cuts into the uterus so that the doctor may remove it in pieces through tiny incisions via the hollow tube of the device. However, in some cases, pieces of tissues may be left behind and, if they are malignant, could cause the spreading of cancer.
Should malignant masses come into contact with the blades of the morcellator, the device can potentially scatter these cancerous particles throughout the patient’s abdomen. This spreading can significantly decrease a woman’s chance of long-term survival, particularly for patients who had a prior history of uterine cancer.
Power Morcellator Cancer
Power morcellator cancer concerns have existed for a number of years. According to an article in the Wall Street Journal:
A November 2012 peer-reviewed study by four Brigham and Women’s doctors, who reviewed 1,091 instances of uterine morcellation at the hospital, found the rate of sarcoma was 1 in 546. They concluded that the rate of leiomyosarcoma, the deadliest form of the disease, was nearly 1 in 1,000—”much higher than the empiric rate of 1-in-10,000 typically quoted to patients during their pre-procedure briefing.”
A Brigham spokeswoman disagreed with the study’s conclusion about the rate quoted to patients, but said the hospital didn’t challenge the findings at the time.
At a 2011 U.S. convention, South Korean researchers said the mortality rate of women at a big medical center in their country whose leiomyosarcoma tumors were removed intact during hysterectomies was 19% after 63 months, compared with 44% after 39 months for woman whose tumors were removed using morcellators.
The article submitted to the New England Journal reviewed 10 studies of 30,000 women who underwent morcellation in several countries and concluded that nearly 1 in 400 women were found to have uterine sarcoma in the removed tissue.
Morcellator cancer lawsuits have been filed alleging that the link between these devices and power morcellator cancer makes them defective and unreasonably dangerous.
Has There Been a Morcellator Recall?
A morcellator lawsuit attorney notes that, in July 2014, Johnson & Johnson recalled three laparoscopic power morcellators from hospitals worldwide as a growing body of evidence points to the spread of cancer as a result of morcellation procedures. In addition to the morcellator recall, the FDA released a safety warning about the dangers of these tools in April 2014. Due to the potential for the devices to spread cancerous cells throughout the body as well as the lack of a reliable method of predicting whether a woman with fibroids has a uterine cancer, the FDA recommended that physicians stop using morcellators during myomectomy or hysterectomy procedures for the removal of uterine fibroids.
Is There a Morcellator Class Action?
No. Morcellator lawsuits are being individually filed and are not expected to be a class action. It is anticipated that individually filed morcellator claims will be consolidated for pre-trial proceeding in multi-district litigation (MDL). An MDL often occurs when a defendant or defendants have caused a similar harm to different people in different ways. In these cases, pursuing individual claims separately is often inefficient, and the respective damages to the plaintiffs are unique to the point of a class action not being appropriate. Exclusive to federal courts, MDLs transfer a number of individual cases to a single court for consolidated pre-trial proceedings.
In contrast to an MDL, a class action lawsuit involves representative plaintiffs filing a complaint alleging the actions of the defendant or defendants harmed them and other members of the class. Members of the class often seek similar compensation, but can choose to opt-out of the settlement and pursue their own individual claims. The court overseeing the cases approves class action settlements.
Have There Been Morcellator Settlements?
With morcellator lawsuits alleging severe, life-threatening complications from the devices, patients may begin to question whether a morcellator settlement has been reached. Although there are many morcellator cases, there is no current information regarding whether a morcellator settlement has been reached. However, if a settlement is reached, it generally does not affect another patient’s right to bring his or her own individual case. Following any morcellator settlement that may be reached, other patients who have been injured or family members of those who have died after developing cancer following a morcellator procedure will not be barred from subsequently bringing claims against the device makers.
Morcellator Cancer News
- November 2016 – Olympus gains FDA approval for power morcellator equipped with a tissue containment pack, meant to capture unsuspectected cancer cells. The device’s design is meant to address concerns related to the risks associated with power morcellators, however, the devices are not recommended for women with suspected uterine sarcomas.
- June 2016 – According to an article in philly.com, fewer hospitals are relying on morcellators and more insurance companies are refusing to cover their use as Pennsylvania couple raises awareness about the dangers of the defective medical devices.
- February 2016 – A morcellator cancer lawsuit filed in South Carolina alleges that the plaintiff was found to have endometriosis and leiomyomatosis, which were later determined to be directly attributable to the surgery performed on her using a power morcellator.
- January 2016 – Online sources report that Congress and the Government Accountability Office (GAO) have been in communication about the issues raised by power morcellators.
- October 2015 – Morcellator cancer lawsuits have been centralized in federal multi-district litigation in Kansas, where the cases will proceed with consolidated case discovery.
- May 2015 – The Wall Street Journal reports that the FBI launched an investigation of the potential for morcellators to spread cancer in women, including looking into what Johnson & Johnson knew about the device’s hazards before pulling it off the market.
- November 2014 – The FDA updates its previous safety communication to warn “against the use of laparoscopic power morcellators in the majority of women undergoing myomectomy or hysterectomy for treatment of fibroids.”
- July 2014 – Johnson & Johnson recalls three laparoscopic power morcellators from hospitals worldwide as a growing body of evidence points to the spread of cancer as a result of morcellation procedures.
- April 2014 – The FDA, in a news release, discourages use of laparoscopic power morcellation for removal of uterus or uterine fibroids, on the basis that the procedure poses a risk of spreading undetected cancerous tissue in women with unsuspected cancer.
- 2012 – Researchers review the medical records of 1091 women who underwent morcellation for uterine masses presumed to be fibroids at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston from 2005 to 2010. The results suggest a rate of unexpected leiomyosarcoma 9-times higher than the rate typically quoted to patients during their preprocedure briefings. (Medscape).
- 1995 – The FDA approves the first laparoscopic power morcellator with a gynecologic indication for use through its 510(k) process. (Medscape).
Affected Patients May be Entitled to Compensation
When patients suffer from severe side effects from a dangerous or defective medical device, they may be entitled to compensation for their injuries and damages. The types of losses that can be recovered include:
- Past and future medical expenses
- Lost wages
- Loss of an ability to work; and
- Pain and suffering
If a person dies from complications caused by a defective device, family members may be able to recover damages for the wrongful death of their loved one, including:
- Funeral expenses
- Medical expenses prior to death
- Loss of economic support; and
- Loss of companionship
If the conduct of a drug company in manufacturing and selling drug is found to be highly reckless, punitive damages may be awarded to punish the company and deter similar conduct in the future.
Affected patients and their families are encouraged to seek the advice of a morcellator lawsuit attorney to learn more about their rights and remedies.
For more information, contact Attorney Group. When you contact us, an attorney will follow up with you to speak with you about your case or answer questions that you might have. There is no cost or obligation to speak with us, and any information you provide will be kept confidential.
Please note that the law limits the time you have to pursue a claim or file a lawsuit for an injury. If you think you have a case, you should not delay taking action.