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What you need to know about hysterectomies

A hysterectomy is a surgical procedure involving the removal of a woman's uterus. This major surgical operation may also include the removal of the cervix, ovaries, and fallopian tubes, depending on the type of hysterectomy performed. The procedure is often recommended for various medical reasons, such as treating certain gynecological conditions like uterine cancer, severe endometriosis, chronic pelvic pain, or uterine fibroids. 

Hysterectomy is a definitive solution to these conditions, and it can be performed through different approaches, including abdominal, vaginal, or laparoscopic methods. The decision to undergo a hysterectomy is typically made after careful consideration of the patient's health, medical history, and the specific condition being addressed. 

Types of hysterectomy procedures

  • Total hysterectomy: Involves the removal of the uterus and cervix. This is the most common type.

  • Subtotal or partial hysterectomy: Only the upper part of the uterus is removed, leaving the cervix intact.

  • Total hysterectomy with bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy (TH-BSO): Removes the uterus, cervix, fallopian tubes, and ovaries. It is a comprehensive procedure often performed for cancer prevention or treatment.

  • Radical hysterectomy: Removes the uterus, cervix, parts of the vagina, and surrounding tissues. This is typically done in cases of cervical or uterine cancer.

  • Hysterectomy with salpingectomy: Involves removing the uterus and fallopian tubes but leaving the ovaries intact.


The type of hysterectomy depends on your condition, so consult with a St. Joseph Health provider to discuss treatment options.

Risks and benefits of hysterectomy

  • Risks:

    • Infection: As with any surgical procedure, there is a risk of infection, although this is relatively low with proper postoperative care.

    • Bleeding: Excessive bleeding during or after surgery is a potential risk, but it's closely monitored by the surgical team.

    • Blood clots: There's a slight risk of developing blood clots post-surgery, particularly if mobility is limited during recovery.

    • Anesthesia risks: Complications related to anesthesia, though rare, may include allergic reactions or respiratory issues.

    • Urinary incontinence or changes: Some individuals may experience changes in urinary function, such as incontinence or difficulty emptying the bladder.

    • Sexual function changes: Hysterectomy can impact sexual function, including changes in libido or vaginal dryness, although this varies among individuals.

  • Benefits:

    • Treatment of gynecological conditions: Hysterectomy is an effective treatment for various gynecological issues such as uterine cancer, severe endometriosis, and uterine fibroids.

    • Relief from chronic pain: Women experiencing chronic pelvic pain or discomfort due to gynecological conditions may find relief through hysterectomy.

    • Cancer prevention: For cases of uterine or cervical cancer, a hysterectomy can be a life-saving preventive measure.

    • Improved quality of life: Relief from symptoms like heavy menstrual bleeding, pain, and other gynecological issues can significantly enhance overall quality of life.

    • No more menstrual periods: For women who no longer wish to have menstrual periods, a hysterectomy provides a permanent solution.

    • Psychological relief: In cases where gynecological issues are causing emotional distress, the resolution of these problems through hysterectomy can offer psychological relief.


Hysterectomy recovery tips

Recovery from a hysterectomy is a gradual process, and following these tips can help facilitate a smoother and more comfortable recuperation:

  • Rest adequately: Allow your body the time it needs to heal by getting plenty of rest. Adequate sleep promotes overall recovery.

  • Follow post-operative instructions: Adhere strictly to the instructions provided by your healthcare team. This may include restrictions on activities, lifting, and diet.

  • Pain management: Take prescribed pain medications as directed to manage post-surgery discomfort. Inform your healthcare provider if you experience any unusual pain.

  • Gentle movement: Gradually incorporate light activities like short walks into your routine to promote circulation and prevent stiffness. Avoid strenuous exercise until approved by your doctor.

  • Incision care: Keep surgical incisions clean and dry. Follow care instructions to prevent infections, and report any signs of redness, swelling, or discharge.

  • Hydration and nutrition: Stay hydrated and maintain a balanced diet rich in nutrients to support healing. Consider fiber-rich foods to prevent constipation, a common post-operative issue.

Each person's situation is unique, and consulting with a St. Joseph Health provider specializing in hysterectomies can provide valuable insights and options tailored to your specific needs and circumstances.

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