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Hysterectomy

Hysterectomy is surgery to remove the uterus. It is very common. Removing your uterus means that you can no longer become pregnant. Hysterectomy is used to treat many women’s health conditions, including:

  • Uterine fibroids
  • Endometriosis
  • Pelvic support problems (such as uterine prolapse)
  • Abnormal uterine bleeding
  • Chronic pelvic pain
  • Gynecologic cancer

In some cases, medications or other procedures that allow you to become pregnant now or in the near future can be tried before having a hysterectomy. Some women wait to have a hysterectomy until after they have completed their families. If you choose another option besides hysterectomy, keep in mind that you may need additional treatment later.

Types of Hysterectomy

  • Total hysterectomy—The entire uterus, including the cervix, is removed.
  • Supracervical (or partial) hysterectomy—The upper part of the uterus is removed, but the cervix is left in place. This type of hysterectomy can only be performed laparoscopically or abdominally.
  • Radical hysterectomy—This is a total hysterectomy that also includes removal of structures around the uterus. It may be recommended if cancer is diagnosed or suspected.

One or both of your ovaries and fallopian tubes may be removed if they are abnormal. Women at risk of ovarian cancer or breast cancer can choose to have both ovaries removed in order to reduce their risk of cancer.

A hysterectomy can be done in different ways: through the vagina, through the abdomen or with laparoscopy. The choice will depend on why you are having the surgery and other factors.

Hysterectomy is one of the safest surgical procedures. As with any surgery, however, problems can occur:

  • Fever and infection
  • Heavy bleeding during or after surgery
  • Injury to the urinary tract or nearby organs
  • Blood clots in the leg that can travel to the lungs
  • Breathing or heart problems related to anesthesia
  • Death

Recovery

You may need to stay in the hospital for up to a few days after surgery. You will be urged to walk around as soon as possible after your surgery to help prevent blood clots in your legs. You also may receive medicine or other care to help prevent blood clots.

You can expect some pain for the first few days and bleeding and discharge from your vagina for several weeks. Other effects may be emotional. You may feel depressed that you are no longer able to bear children, or you may be relieved that your former symptoms are gone.

Source: American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.