The morcellator allows for the removal of tissue, known as a myomectomy, or the removal of the uterus, known as a hysterectomy, to be done in a minimally invasive way.
Imagine going for a routine surgery like uterine fibroid treatment. Few women don't know at least a handful of friends or family members who have had to deal with their uterine fibroids because they were causing discomfort, pain, or even infertility. This is why recent safety communications from the FDA have left so many feeling shocked and frightened.
In November of 2014, the FDA gave an update to a communication from earlier in the year relating to the use of a laparoscopic tool known as a power morcellator. This is something that cuts up large masses of tissues into morsels that are then removed via another laparoscopic suction device. This system has been in use for many years, and especially when treating uterine fibroids.
The morcellator allows for the removal of tissue, known as a myomectomy, or the removal of the uterus, known as a hysterectomy, to be done in a minimally invasive way. The laparoscopic surgery just requires a few small incisions in the abdomen, and the surgery is done in the closed body. Obviously, this reduces complications associated with wounds and even some urinary, digestive, and even sexual problems that arise from other surgical methods.
Sadly, what the FDA had determined and investigated in 2014 was the risk of a morcellator causing a treatable form of cancer to spread rapidly and widely in the abdominal area.
A few years before the FDA communications, several women came to the public eye because of their health problems brought on by what should have been routine uterine fibroid surgery. Instead, these women ended up developing aggressive forms of cancer. In the case of Donna Burkhart of Philadelphia, her routine fibroid surgery ended up giving her systemic Leiomyosarcoma (LMS), and this brought her life to an end within a year of diagnosis.
Another case, out of Boston, is that of Amy Reed who is a physician and mother of six who has an identical tale. Though Amy is still combating her cancer, it has also become systemic (meaning untreatable), and so she and her husband (also a physician) have been fighting to bring this threat to the public eye.
How it Happens
Mrs. Burkhart's husband has started a lawsuit and the Reeds are campaigning for changes in the medical industry, and what both want to see is the end of the use of power morcellators for uterine fibroid treatment and hysterectomy. These devices are the source of the heartbreak because they are meant to shred tissue for easy removal, but as they chop up masses they release deadly cancer cells into the bloodstream and the body.
These cells are unique because they are soft tissue cancers of the involuntary muscle. They do not need lymphatic channels to travel and will instead move anywhere in the body and operate in a parasitic way. They can then adhere to any soft tissue and quickly grow into diseased tissue nearly impossible to treat.
Though it seems like a relatively obvious threat when explained in basic terms, it is also that most cases of uterine LMS go undiagnosed or misdiagnosed as uterine fibroids. When the patient has their benign tissue removed, it also removes the diseased tissue in an unsafe way, as well.
The FDA believes that surgeons should no longer use morcellators for the treatment of uterine fibroids or for hysterectomy. Some hospitals have a moratorium on their use pending further study, and even some makers of the devices have voluntarily withdrawn them from the market.
There is a lot of heartbreak when a horrible disease could have easily been avoided or treated. Fortunately, the suffering that has occurred, and the willingness of those who suffered to share their stories, will allow many more to be spared.
Luhana, Roopal. Uterine Leiomyosarcoma a Potentially Dangerous Outcome of Uterine Surgery. The Legal Examiner. 2014. http://westvirginia.legalexaminer.com/medical-devices-implants/uterine-leiomyosarcoma-a-potentially-dangerous-outcome-of-uterine-surgery/
Written by twla_developer on 2 Feb 2015
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