Health Insurer Aetna Will No Longer Cover Power Morcellator Surgery Due to Cancer Dangers
One of the largest health insurance companies in the US, Aetna, announced that as of June 2015, it will no longer cover routine use of laparoscopic power morcellator surgery for uterine fibroids due to the high risk of spreading cancer to the uterus and ovaries.
After an investigation into complaints about power morcellators causing uterine and ovarian cancer after “routine” fibroid surgery, the Food and Drug Administration announced that its statistics related to power morcellators had been wrong – rather than 1 in 7,000 women developing ovarian or uterine cancer after fibroid surgery using a morcellator device, the number was closer to 1 in 350. In November 2014, the FDA said power morcellators should not be used for the majority of these routine surgeries, cancer testing should improve, and power morcellator manufacturers should put a “black box” warning on all the devices.
Power morcellator surgery is supposed to be a simple, non-invasive procedure in which the laparoscopic device is used to find fibroid tissue in the uterus, and grind fibroids down to be removed through a small incision in the abdomen. Uterine fibroids can cause pain and annoyance with menstruation, so many women choose to undergo the surgery to reduce those complications. However, grinding down fibroids, which are assumed to be non-cancerous, can actually cause the spread of cancer when the tumor is ground down.
In response to the FDA’s announcement last year, Aetna said it has changed its insurance policy to reflect the concern over spreading cancer to the uterus and ovaries with power morcellator surgery. The company said it would require prior approval for any procedure involving the devices, to help minimize risk to women. Doctors can, according Aetna spokeswoman Cynthia Michener, request exemptions for pre-menopausal women who need specific surgeries, such as partial hysterectomies, due to life-threatening circumstances but who want to preserve fertility as much as possible.
“The policy takes into account the latest FDA warnings about the risk that morcellation can spread unsuspected uterine sarcoma in the abdomen and pelvis,” Ms. Michener said.
Aetna added that it is urging doctors and surgeons to discuss both the ups and downs of power morcellator surgery with female patients, as well as other surgical alternatives. As of June 1st, routine fibroid surgery with a power morcellator will, per Aetna policy, be deemed “medically unnecessary.”
Other companies responded in a similar strong manner to the power morcellator cancer concern. Johnson & Johnson issued a device recall for its power morcellators, and HCA Holdings Inc, the largest for-profit hospital chain in the United States, said it would immediately stop performing surgeries with power morcellators.
A few gynecological surgeons still argue that power morcellators are the best device for surgeries to help women’s health, because they are minimally invasive, but most doctors are moving away from using the devices for uterine fibroid surgeries due to the possibility of spreading cancer.
The Strom Law Firm Helps Women Harmed by Power Morcellator Surgery
If you or a loved one have undergone power morcellator surgery to remove uterine fibroids, and have since been diagnosed with cancer of the uterus or ovaries, you are not alone. The South Carolina dangerous device personal injury attorneys at the Strom Law Firm can help. We offer a free, confidential case evaluation to discuss your injuries and how we can help you, so contact us today. 803.252.4800.