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Even after FDA Warns of Cancer Risk, Many Doctors Still Use Power Morcellators

Oct 14, 2014

In April, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) urged surgeons to stop using power morcellators during uterine surgery. In the safety advisory, the agency said that use of these tools could spread hidden cancers. Despite this warning, however, a number of doctors continue to use power morcellators, EmpowHer reports.

Power morcellators are tools that are used to cut up larger pieces of tissue into smaller pieces during laparoscopic, or minimally invasive procedures. Morcellation is intended make tissue more easy to remove through smaller incisions. This surgery is performed about 50,000 times a year, the FDA said in April. The agency said that in women who have a hidden cancer in or around their uterine fibroids, the tools can spread the cancer and worsen prognosis. This risk is present in 1 out of 350 women.

Some doctors support banning the device due to the risk of spreading cancerous tissue. Robert Graebe MD, the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology chairman at New Jersey’s Monmouth Medical Center, initially thought the FDA warning was too far reaching but has since changed his mind. "People want to fight back, but it's not putting patients' safety first. It's not worth playing Russian roulette with the patient." he said to Wall Street Journal (WSJ).

Women who undergo uterine surgery should discuss the risks with their physicians, the FDA says. If a laparoscopic procedure is the only option available, be sure to ask if a power morcellator will be used.

In July, Johnson & Johnson said it would be asking doctors to return power morcellators, Reuters reports. The company stopped selling and distributing the devices in April.

Litigation has been mounting over the safety of the devices. One lawsuit was filed on behalf of a couple who alleged that power morcellation spread a woman's hidden leiomyosarcoma. The suit was filed against Wolf Medical Instruments over the Wolf Power Morcellator.

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