What You Should Know About Power Morcellators
Written by Leiomyosarcoma Team on 20 May 2015
To many women, power morcellators may be completely foreign objects. They’ve never heard of them, much less had one used on them. However, there are a couple of reasons that should change. For one thing, morcellators have been an extremely popular device for surgeons to use during hysterectomies since 1993. Now, though, that’s beginning to end. The FDA, insurance companies and even manufacturers have all lined up to denounce the device and educate doctors and the public on why it shouldn’t be used.
What Is a Power Morcellator?
A power morcellator is a very simple, yet very effective device. The surgeon wraps their hand around it like they would a power drill. Then a stem protrudes forward about six to nine inches. At the end of this stem are spinning blades, which are triggered by the surgeon.
Power morcellators were designed to clear unnecessary tissue, which is why it became so popular during hysterectomies. The surgeon only needed to open up the patient a couple centimeters to slide the device in. Once the tips reached its destination, the blades could be activated and the area around it would be clear.
Without a power morcellator, the surgeon would have to cut a much more invasive space into their patient and then manually clear the area. Obviously, this was far less desirable than using the device.
What’s the Problem with Using the Power Morcellator?
In 2014, the FDA announced they had issue with surgeons using these tools. They actually said they had been suspicious for years, but were now sure that it needed to be reexamined.
On a perfectly healthy woman, the device poses very little, if any threat. However, if a woman were getting, say, a hysterectomy and had a cancerous growth in the area where tissue was going to be cleared, then there would be a huge problem.
The blades on the power morcellator would cut into this growth and send pieces of the cancerous tissue in every direction. Essentially, the surgeon would be inadvertently helping the cancer spread throughout the body and potentially create tumors.
The FDA’s Response
Like we mentioned, the FDA was the first to start ringing the alarm about this tool. At first, they made an announcement in 2014. This was followed up by new labels that essentially alerted surgeons to the risk these devices represented and advising against using them in most situations.
When Johnson & Johnson was hesitant about pulling their products, they announced that they would wait for further proof. In response, the FDA put on hearings that showcased experts testifying about the morcellator threat. Johnson & Johnson, the largest manufacturer of these tools in the world, immediately announced they’d cease production and even encouraged customers to return theirs.
Insurance Companies Join In
Insurance companies are also largely against the use of morcellators on their customers. Of the top four largest insurers in the country, all but one have taken this stance. In fact, UnitedHealth, the largest provider in the country, has gone so far as to say that if any surgeon plans on using the tool, they need to seek authorization from them first (minus a few exceptions).
The other top two insurers have either taken similar stances or announced they planned on it. Their comrades include insurance companies that, in total, make up a 92 million person customer base. They alone could easily stop the use of power morcellators in this country.
If you’re a woman about to have a hysterectomy or similar procedure, speak to your doctor about the above. While the FDA is looking for ways to help make morcellators safer, at the moment, you at least want to talk to your physician about other options.