A hysterectomy is a surgery that is done to remove a woman's uterus. It is used to treat conditions such as:
- abnormal bleeding
- cancers of the uterus, ovary, cervix, or endometrium
- fibroids (non-malignant tumors in the lining of the uterus)
- endometriosis and adenomyosis (when uterine tissue grows outside the uterus or inside the walls)
- uterine prolapse (when the uterus enters the vagina)
- chronic pelvic pain
Your doctor will determine if you need a hysterectomy and the type that will be performed. A total hysterectomy removes the uterus and cervix (the lower portion of the uterus that leads to the vagina). A Vaginal Hysterectomy only removes the top portion of the uterus, while a radical hysterectomy removes the uterus, cervix, a portion of the vagina, and other surrounding tissues.
A hysterectomy is performed by making an incision through the vagina or abdomen. A special camera (a laparoscope) can also be used to help guide the surgeon through the procedure. This operation is done by a surgeon at a hospital.
A picture of a uterus.
Risks and precautions
A hysterectomy is usually safe, but in general, any surgery involving the use of anesthesia comes with some risks that depend on factors such as your overall health status (e.g., having other conditions such as diabetes) and what the surgery involves.
Side effects are very rare but can include trouble breathing, reactions to the anesthetic, bleeding, infection, scarring, and death. Other potential risks associated with a hysterectomy are damage to other organs close to the uterus (e.g., bladder, urinary tract) and blood clots.
Talk to your doctor if you are worried about any of the symptoms or side effects you experience after this procedure.
It is important that you understand all the risks of complications and side effects of the procedure, and what you or your doctor can do to avoid them. Make sure that your doctor is aware of all your concerns.
Before the procedure
In preparing for a hysterectomy, you will meet with the surgeon to discuss the surgery and any questions you might have. A preadmission check will be ordered, which consists of several tests such as X-rays, ultrasounds, electrocardiograms (ECGs), or blood tests.
You may not be able to eat or drink before the procedure; it is important to follow the timing that your doctor recommended, otherwise you run the risk of the surgery being cancelled or postponed. In general, people are advised to not eat for 8 hours before the procedure; most hospitals ask that you do not drink or eat anything after midnight the night before the procedure.
If you are taking any prescription or over-the-counter (non-prescription) medications, supplements, or herbal products, make sure you inform your doctor or pharmacist. Ask them whether it is necessary for you to stop taking any of these medications and products before the procedure. It is also important to tell them if you have allergies to certain medications, bandages or latex, or have other medical conditions.
Plan to have someone drive you home from the hospital. You will also need someone to assist you with daily activities for at least a week after you leave the hospital.