The Benefits and Threats of Power Morcellators

Before morcellators were introduced in the 1990s, women who had a hysterectomy usually had to bear an abdominal incision that was, at least, six inches long, as the procedure was a major or open surgery. The entry of power morcellators into the market changed this, however, as it gave doctors and patients the privilege of opting for a minimally invasive procedure, which required four very tiny 0.5 – 1cm cuts instead. Other than the small cuts, hysterectomies (and other laparoscopic, or minimally invasive, surgeries, including myomectomy) wherein a morcellator was used also became much less painful, safer, faster to perform, lessened the loss of blood and chances of infection, and allowed a very fast recovery period.

Hysterectomy, a surgical procedure wherein the womb or uterus is removed, is the second most common surgery undergone by women in the US (the first is Caesarean section). It becomes a very necessary procedure due to:

  • Chronic pelvic pain
  • Uncontrollable bleeding during childbirth
  • The presence of oversized uterine fibroids that can cause bleeding, bladder pressure, pelvic pain, and anemia
  • Uterine prolapse, a condition wherein the uterus drops into the vagina due to the weakening of the tissues that hold it in place (uterine prolapse is usually caused by persistent coughing, straining, childbirth, hormonal changes, and obesity)
  • Certain types of cancer, such as cancer of the uterus, cervix and ovarian cancer
  • Severe pains caused by a condition called endometriosis, a situation wherein the tissues that are supposed to line the uterus grow outside of it and grow in the ovary, on the fallopian tube, or other abdominal or pelvic organ instead
  • Adenomyosis, a condition wherein the endometrium, which is the inner lining of the uterus, breaks through the uterus’ muscle wall. This condition can cause lower abdominal pressure, bloating before menstrual periods and menstrual cramps that can result to heavy periods.

Three of the best acknowledged power morcellators were the Gynecare Morcellex, the Gynecare X-Tract and the Morcellex Sigma, all of which being products of Johnson & Johnson, the leader in the manufacture and distribution of power morcellators. However, due to a safety alert issued by the US Food and Drug Administration on April 17, 2014, Ethicon, J&J’s power morcellator manufacturing unit, saw the need to suspend all sales and distribution of the device rather than cause harm on anyone.

The FDA’s communication was based on medical literature which said that, though morcellators provided multiple benefits, the deadly cancerous tissues (called uterine sarcoma) it caused to spread was a very great risk that no amount of benefits can outweigh. And though doctors and hospitals had been discouraged to use the device further, so many women have already been treated with it.

How many more women will be filing morcellator lawsuits may be hard to predict, but many more are still the expected to be filed.