Litigation is growing over power morcellators, with users alleging that the devices spread and worsened a hidden uterine cancer. Recently, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation consolidated over 20 lawsuits into a federal multidistrict litigation (MDL). More than 30 cases were centralized for pretrial proceedings. Lawsuits have been filed against Johnson & Johnson’s Ethicon division. Plaintiffs in the litigation allege that the morcellator caused serious complications, including the spread of cancerous tissue.
Morcellators cut up large pieces of tissue into smaller pieces so they can be more easily removed. They are used in procedures such as a laparoscopic hysterectomy, or removal of the uterus.
In April 2014, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned that used of morcellators could spread a previously unknown cancer during a surgery to remove uterine fibroids. The agency issued another warning that November. The FDA estimates that 1 in 350 women undergoing hysterectomy and fibroid removal have an unknown uterine sarcoma, a type of uterine cancer. Morcellators can spread the cancerous tissue during these procedures, worsening a patient’s prognosis.
Recently, Congressman Michael G. Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania sent a letter to the FDA’s director of the Office of Criminal Investigations. Fitzpatrick called on the FDA to investigate three deaths of cancer patients that may have been related to the use of morcellators.