Procedures such as Hysterectomy used to be carried out with invasive surgery, resulting in a larger incision that would take longer to heal and often place the patient in hospital for days at a time.
With the advent of Laparoscopic Uterine Surgery for women – a procedure by which miniature cameras and surgical tools are inserted through small incisions and surgery performed, essentially from the outside, results in shorter hospital stays and faster healing, lessening the burden on both patient and the health care industry overall.
It’s the introduction of Laparoscopic Power Morcellation that has proven an Achilles’ heel for the less-invasive procedure.
Various lawsuits assert that treatments for fibroids that involve power morcellation can succeed in worsening the health, and the prognosis of the patient and result in undetected cancers. Morcellators, inserted through a small incision, are used by the surgeon to section, or bust-up fibroids in the uterus (or the uterus itself, in the event of a hysterectomy), for extraction through a tube inserted through the incision. While this procedure can have medical advantages, problems have arisen when undetected cancerous cells from certain fibroids have been effectively spread through the abdomen by way of the morcellation process, putting the patient at increased risk for cancers.
This has come to pass for many patients, and lawsuits have been launched in kind.
Ethicon, a division of Johnson & Johnson, had successfully marketed its Morcelex brand of power morcellators until July 2014, when the manufacturer initiated a voluntary world-wide recall of all units. Ethicon had suspended sales of the units the previous April.
It wasn’t long before the Laparoscopic Uterine Surgery lawsuits began flowing, with the first filed in federal court in New York just one month after Ethicon suspended sales of the devices.
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That position – and the recall of the Ethicon morcellators – comes too late for many women who have already been hit with a diagnosis of cancer following Laparoscopic Uterine Surgery for women. It should be noted that uterine fibroids are common and normally found to be benign. However, about one in 350 women undergoing a hysterectomy or fibroid removal have an unsuspected uterine sarcoma, a type of uterine cancer.
Lawsuits filed by plaintiffs citing dangerous medical procedures have been consolidated in multi-district litigation. The case is In Re: Power Morcellator Products Liability Litigation, MDL number 2652, in the US Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation.