What is hysterectomy?

A hysterectomy is a surgical procedure to remove the womb (uterus). Many women have a hysterectomy for a number of different reasons, primarily to treat gynaecological conditions.

After a hysterectomy you’ll no longer have periods or be able to get pregnant.

What does a laparoscopy involve?

There are various types of hysterectomy. The type you have depends on why you need the operation and how much of your womb and surrounding reproductive system can safely be left in place.

The main types of hysterectomy are:

  • total hysterectomy – the womb and cervix (neck of the womb) are removed; this is the most commonly performed operation
  • subtotal hysterectomy – the main body of the womb is removed, leaving the cervix in place
  • total hysterectomy with bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy – the womb, cervix, fallopian tubes (salpingectomy) and ovaries (oophorectomy) are removed
  • radical hysterectomy – the womb and surrounding tissues are removed, including the fallopian tubes, part of the vagina, ovaries, lymph glands and fatty tissue

There are 3 ways to carry out a hysterectomy:

  • laparoscopic hysterectomy (keyhole surgery) – where the womb is removed through several small cuts in the tummy
  • vaginal hysterectomy – where the womb is removed through a cut in the top of the vagina
  • abdominal hysterectomy – where the womb is removed through a cut in the lower tummy

Hysterectomy recovery

Depending on the type of hysterectomy you undergo will determine the length of the surgery, but on average this takes around one hour. You’ll be given painkillers to help reduce any pain and discomfort.

The length of time you are in hospital depends on your age and your general level of health. If you have had a vaginal or laparoscopic hysterectomy, you may be able to leave between 1 and 4 days later. If you have had an abdominal hysterectomy, it’ll usually be up to 5 days before you’re discharged.

It takes about 6 to 8 weeks to fully recover after having an abdominal hysterectomy. Recovery times are often shorter after a vaginal or laparoscopy hysterectomy. During this time, you should rest as much as possible and not lift anything heavy, such as bags of shopping.

If your job doesn’t involve manual labour, you may be able to return after 4 to 8 weeks, this is the same for driving.

Why would you be referred for a hysterectomy?

Many fertility investigations are performed via laparoscopy, as a minimally invasive surgery it allows your surgeon to view internal images and confirm a diagnosis, such as checking the fallopian tubes for any blockages etc.

The most common reasons for having a hysterectomy include:

  • heavy periods – which can be caused by fibroids
  • pelvic pain – which may be caused by endometriosis
  • prolapse of the uterus
  • cancer of the womb, ovaries or cervix

Risks of hysterectomy surgery

As with all types of surgery, a hysterectomy can sometimes lead to complications.

Some of the possible complications are:

  • general anaesthetic complications
  • bleeding
  • ureter damage
  • bladder or bowel damage
  • infection
  • blood clots
  • vaginal problems
  • ovary failure
  • early menopause

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