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June 12th 2015

Power Morcellator Lawsuits on the Rise

Litigation involving the power morcellator, a surgical tool used in hysterectomies and myectomies to remove fibroids from the uterus, continues to grow.

A husband alleging that his wife died from leiomyosarcoma less than a year after undergoing a hysterectomy involving morcellation filed the first power morcellator lawsuit in March 2014 in Pennsylvania, and at least six others have followed, including several brought in 2015:

  • In January 2015, a Michigan woman filed a claim against Karl Storz, a German company whose power morcellator allegedly caused the woman’s undiagnosed uterine cancer to spread to stage 4 cancer that has metastasized to her breasts and bones.
  • Also in January 2015, a California widower filed suit against Johnson & Johnson, claiming that his wife’s 2012 death was caused by a hysterectomy procedure in which J&J’s Gynecare Morcellex morcellator was used.
  • In March 2015, a Georgia couple filed suit against J&J over her leiomyosarcoma diagnosis after undergoing a hysterectomy in 2011.

According to the National Women’s Health Network, hysterectomy is the second most common surgical procedure done on women of reproductive age, and by the age of 60, one in three women have had a hysterectomy.

Power Morcellators and Cancer

Until recently, power morcellators have been a common choice among surgeons who perform hysterectomies and myectomies to remove benign fibroids from the uterus. The device features high-speed blades that cut fibroid tissue into small pieces for removal through a small incision, but the ground up tissue is also spread throughout the abdomen and pelvic region by centrifugal force. Because there is no conclusive way to distinguish between benign fibroids and undiagnosed uterine cancer, power morcellators present a significant risk of spreading undetected cancer cells throughout the abdomen, leading to rapid upstaging of the disease.

According to FDA researchers, as many as one of every 352 women who have fibroid removal surgery are also harboring undetected uterine sarcoma. The FBI is currently conducting an investigation of the power morcellator, allegedly focusing on J&J’s knowledge of the device’s risks.

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