In the wake of mounting evidence that the devices can promote the spread
of cancer, Johnson & Johnson has issued a worldwide recall of three
laparoscopic power morcellators. In April 2014, the U.S. Food and Drug
Administration advised physicians to cease using the device because it
could result in the spread of cancerous tissue, and Johnson & Johnson
suspended sale and distribution of the device. The medical mogul's
Ethicon division stated the recall was the next logical step.
However, the company defended its product to healthcare providers, stating
it believes the device functions properly and could potentially benefit
many patients although its role in fibroid removal during hysterectomy
and myomectomy is yet to be determined.
Morcellators Used for Hysterectomies and Fibroid Removal
Used for a variety of surgical procedures, such as hysterectomies and myomectomies,
a morcellator is a laparoscopic instrument designed for the removal of
fibroids and benign tumors. Morcellation devices also offer a less-invasive
alternative for certain renal and spleen surgeries.
The device is inserted through a small incision on the abdomen to tear
apart fibroids for easier removal. However, some masses which were determined
to be benign in earlier tests, are later discovered to be malignant, and
the rotating action of the morcellator's blades could potentially
spread the cancerous tissue, prompting the onset of advanced-stage malignant growths.
Cancer Risks with Morcellator Use
The proportion of device risks to its benefits are not yet entirely clear.
However, in light of concern over adverse medical conditions linked to
use of the device, the call was made to finally remove the device from
the market at the conclusion of July's FDA Medical Devices Advisory
As of yet, healthcare providers are still searching for an effective preoperative
test to identify certain malignancies, including leiomyosarcoma. Unfortunately,
indications of some of the most aggressive forms of cancer frequently
elude detection with current preoperative screenings.
Currently, doctors do not have a means of minimizing the risks of morcellated
tissue being spread throughout the abdominal cavity. While some doctors
maintain that power morcellation is a valid treatment, the FDA surmises
the chance of the procedure dispersing cancer is 1 in 350.