So you go in for simple surgery.  Removal of a fibroid, a hysterectomy.  You choose the hospital, maybe go so far as choosing the surgeon to take this on.  ‘It’s laparoscopic’ they say, and in our minds that means safe, effective and nearly scar-free.  They say they use this device – they call it the power morcellator – that is sent through the incision to break up the fibroid or the uterus into small enough pieces to suck up through the incision and make what used to be a more major procedure into a minor, safer surgery.  Except, it turns out, it’s not.

What’s wrong with this picture? 

Hundreds, maybe thousands of these procedures are done daily in American hospitals.  And afterward, if you’ve made it through without complications from surgery, you move forward.  What women don’t know, however, and must know is that those morcillated pieces that should have been drawn back into the tube have a good chance of attaching themselves to organs, left in the body to seed.

Most fibroid masses are benign.  However- and this is critical – before surgery there is no way to know if a cancer is hidden within its dense tissue.  So the many tiny pieces that have attached themselves to organs may, in some cases, contain cancer.

The seeds of cancer grow

Brandon Bogle, with the law firm Levin, Papantonio, is the one who told me about the power morcellator.  He’s investigating the device because, in fact, the scenario above is happening all over.  Women who have had this seemingly simple surgery are now finding themselves with uterine or other kinds of cancer, and side effects that range from pelvic pain to bowel obstruction.

So let’s say a person does their homework, gets the right surgeon, the right hospital, gets through the surgery and believes that since the fibroid now presents as gone she can move on in life.  Instead, because of the laproscopic technique with the power morcellator, she could now be festering cancer or living its effects.

Surgical shrapnel turns cancerous 

This is where I start to question the manufacturers of the device, Ethicon (a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson), and the lack of consideration giants in the medical and pharmaceutical arena such as this, had when they packaged and marketed this ‘groundbreaking’ device.  Consider shrapnel.  We’re all far too familiar with stories of the effects of bombs or bullets have on impact to their main targets.  Through sheer force of power, shrapnel can fly great distances, hit a target and cause serious damage.  How did the device makers not consider the cancerous possibilities of these small pieces?  How did they not assume that minute parts of material could be left behind to fester (the medical term is upstage) or seed this cancer within the body?

How this could happen

I asked Brandon Bogle to explain how a device could be marketed and adopted by the medical community, yet no one stopped to consider this known medical truth.

He explains, “There’s a gray area of oversight in the medical world.  Devices are tested in limited amounts by the FDA, but only if they’re substantially different than what is currently accepted.  Testing too is limited and warnings are generated from such limited testing.”

What’s next?

Brandon is investigating the case more thoroughly for Levin, Papantonio, but much remains to be seen.  I do know that there are a continuing number of women who are experiencing the negative effects.  To find out more, visit the Levin, Papantonio morcellator lawsuit page.

Ellen Barnett is a frequent contributor to Ring of Fire Radio