What's it like: Hysterectomy

What's it like: Hysterectomy
by Jaclyn Cosgrove Published: June 3, 2012

Why get a hysterectomy?

A hysterectomy is a surgery to remove a woman's uterus. It is the second most common surgery for women, next to cesarean section delivery.

There are several factors that can lead to a woman needing a hysterectomy. One of the common reasons a woman will need a hysterectomy is related to problems with bleeding. A woman can develop bleeding problems when she has structural abnormalities in or around her uterus.

For example, she might suffer from fibroid tumors, muscular tumors that grow in the wall of the uterus, or uterine polyps, growths attached to the inner wall of the uterus. If medicine or attempts at removing the structures have failed, and a woman is near or past menopause and doesn't want to have any more children, a hysterectomy might be suggested.

Another reason a woman might get a hysterectomy is if she has cancer of the uterus, ovary or cervix. Also, a woman who suffers from structural abnormality diseases such as endometriosis or adenomyosis, might need a hysterectomy. Hysterectomies grow more common for women as they age.

Every woman is different, and you should talk with your doctor about treatment options and risk factors.

What happens when you get a hysterectomy?

There are a few types of hysterectomies. These include:

• A total hysterectomy, where the entire uterus, including the cervix, is removed.

• A subtotal or partial hysterectomy, where the upper section of the uterus is removed but the cervix is left.

• A hysterectomy where the surgeon removes the fallopian tubes and ovaries.

There are also a few different ways a doctor can perform a hysterectomy. The surgery that your doctor picks for you will depend on your health history.

Historically, a doctor performed a hysterectomy by making a large abdominal cut about five to seven inches long, then removing the uterus and cervix through the abdomen.

In the past 20 years, with the arrival of the laparoscope, doctors now can perform a laparoscopic hysterectomy as well. A laparoscope is a small lighted tube and small camera that a doctor inserts into the abdomen through a small cut. Using a laparoscope allows your doctor the ability to see your pelvic organs.

Once the doctor inserts the laparoscope, he or she will make a few other small cuts on your abdomen and insert specialized surgical instruments through those holes.

Next the doctor might cut your uterus into smaller pieces and remove it through the cuts in your stomach. Or, instead of this technique, the surgeon could remove your uterus through the vagina. This technique is known as a laparoscopically assisted vaginal hysterectomy.

Surgeons can also perform a hysterectomy using a robot. With a robotic-assisted hysterectomy, the doctor will make about four incisions, with the largest incision measuring about 1 centimeter, a little more than one-third of an inch.

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by Jaclyn Cosgrove
Medical and Health Reporter
Jaclyn Cosgrove writes about health, medicine and fitness, among other things. She graduated from Oklahoma State University with a news-editorial and broadcast production degree. Outside of work, she enjoys riding her bike, taking pictures of...
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