A hysterectomy is a surgical procedure that involves the removal of a woman’s uterus. After the procedure, the patient will no longer be able to conceive and, if they have not yet reached menopause, they will no longer menstruate. Hysterectomies are performed to treat conditions that affect the female reproductive system, such as heavy menstrual bleeding, chronic pelvic pain, non-cancerous growths (fibroids), and various forms of cancer. A hysterectomy is a major surgery with a lengthy recovery period and is only considered after less invasive treatments have been attempted.
Once the surgery date has been scheduled, preparations for a hysterectomy begin. The patient’s healthcare provider may suggest pre-operative lifestyle changes, such as exercising and quitting smoking, to get their body in the best possible shape for surgery. As the surgery date approaches, the patient will receive specific instructions for the day of their hysterectomy, including which medications to take or avoid, what to wear and bring with them, and when to stop eating.
There are several types of hysterectomy. The type received depends on the reason for the surgery and how much of the patient’s uterus and surrounding reproductive system can safely remain in place. The main types of hysterectomy are: total hysterectomy – removal of the uterus and cervix (neck of the uterus); this is the most common type of operation; subtotal hysterectomy – removal of the main body of the uterus while leaving the cervix in place; total hysterectomy with bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy – removal of the uterus, cervix, fallopian tubes (salpingectomy), and ovaries (oophorectomy); radical hysterectomy – removal of the uterus and surrounding tissues, including the fallopian tubes, part of the vagina, ovaries, lymph glands, and fatty tissue. There are three methods for performing a hysterectomy: laparoscopic hysterectomy (keyhole surgery) – small incisions are made in the abdomen and the uterus is removed through an incision in the vagina; vaginal hysterectomy – removal of the uterus through an incision at the top of the vagina; abdominal hysterectomy – removal of the uterus through an incision in the lower abdomen.
Like all surgeries, a hysterectomy can sometimes result in complications. Some possible complications include: complications from general anesthesia; bleeding; damage to the ureter; damage to the bladder or bowel; infection; blood clots; vaginal issues; ovarian failure; early menopause. A hysterectomy is a major surgery. The patient may need to stay in the hospital for up to five days after surgery and it can take six to eight weeks to fully recover. Recovery times may also vary depending on the type of hysterectomy performed. During this time, it is important for the patient to rest as much as possible and avoid lifting heavy objects. Their abdominal muscles and tissues need time to heal.
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