A power morcellator is a surgical instrument that looks like a small, thin caulking gun with a rapidly spinning blade. It is used mostly for gynecological procedures, such as a removing the uterus (hysterectomy) or a removing uterine fibroids (myomectomy.)
The device cuts large chunks of tissue into tiny pieces, which are then removed from the body through a small incision in the abdomen. Approved by the Federal Drug Administration in 1995, power morcellation was initially lauded as a minimally-invasive alternative to open surgery, resulting in smaller incisions, faster healing and minimal blood loss.
Now, power morcellation is among the most dangerous medical procedures performed today, although its use has been sharply curtailed. The fallout came in 2013 when a high-profile case in Boston exposed that the device spreads hidden and potentially deadly uterine cancers, including a rare and aggressive type called leiomyosarcoma.
Research shows that if any cancer cells are present in the uterus, the spinning blade of the power morcellator may rapidly spread the cancer to the abdomen and pelvis, significantly worsening the patient’s outcome and survival rate.