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GAO report criticizes use of power morcellators

WASHINGTON, D.C. (WHAM) – A newly released government report is heavily critical of a medical device that has been linked to the deaths of several local women.

Rep. Louise Slaughter (D, NY-25) announced the release of the Government Accountability Office (GAO) report Wednesday. The report focuses on the FDA's approval of power morcellators.

Laparoscopic power morcellators are used for hysterectomies and to treat uterine fibroids by grinding, or morcellating, them. However, if the blades hit an undetectable fibroid cancer, it will spread the cancer throughout the body, like shrapnel – taking Stage 1 cancers immediately to Stage 4.

Slaughter is part of a bipartisan group that investigated the devices and co-commissioned the report in 2015. The findings are linked to serious gaps in the FDA’s device reporting process.

Frank Interlichia, who lives in Brighton, lost his wife Linda in October 2014 after she had surgery involving a power morcellator.

“I hope these findings keep this issue in the public eye so that leaders in Congress, at the FDA, in physicians’ professional societies and in hospitals and doctors’ offices will follow through on making reforms that can help save lives,” Interlichia said.

Interlichia and his wife were married for nearly 31 years and had two daughters.

"If they had done an open hysterectomy and they left the tumor intact, she probably would be here talking to you now," said Interlichia.

He said doctors described the hysterectomy as routine and didn't tell them the power morcellator would be used.

Interlichia hopes the medical community will have better systems in place in reporting methods, and any device thought to cause harm will be banned.

He also hopes more training will go into doctor-patient conversations.

"Any one of those things would be a win here," said Interlichia. "At the end of the day, what that means is lives aren't shortened unnecessarily."

URMC restricted its use of power morcellators in March 2014.

The full report can be seen here.

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