Hysterectomy is the surgical removal of the uterus. It ends menstruation and the ability to become pregnant. Depending on the reason for the surgery, a hysterectomy may also involve the removal of other organs and tissues such as the ovaries and/or fallopian tubes.
A hysterectomy may be performed to treat:
Yes. A hysterectomy is only one way to treat problems affecting the uterus. For certain conditions, however, hysterectomy may be the best choice. Please ask your health care provider to discuss what alternatives are available to treat your specific condition.
A woman's sexual function is usually not affected after hysterectomy, and her sexual desire should not change. Only if the ovaries were removed with the uterus prior to menopause, decreased sex drive may occur and vaginal dryness may be a problem during sex. However, estrogen therapy can relieve vaginal dryness and other hormone-related effects.
A health care provider will explain the procedure in detail, including possible complications and side effects. He or she will also answer your questions.
An anesthesiologist will give you either:
The surgeon removes the uterus through an incision in your abdomen or vagina. The method used during surgery depends on why you need the surgery and the results of your pelvic exam.
During a vaginal hysterectomy, some doctors use a laparoscope (a procedure called laparoscopically assisted vaginal hysterectomy or LAVH) to help them view the uterus and perform the surgery.
A laparoscope with advanced instruments can also be used to perform hysterectomy completely through tiny incisions (total or supracervical laparoscopic hysterectomy). In more difficult cases, surgeons may employ assistance of robotic instruments placed through the laparoscope to complete the laparoscopic hysterectomy (robotic-assisted laparoscopic hysterectomy).
The procedure lasts 1 to 3 hours. The amount of time you spend in the hospital for recovery varies, depending on the type of surgery performed.
A responsible adult must drive you home the day you are discharged from the hospital.
After hysterectomy, your periods will stop. Occasionally, you may feel bloated and have symptoms similar to when you were menstruating. It is normal to have light vaginal bleeding or a dark brown discharge for about 4 to 6 weeks after surgery.
You may feel discomfort at the incision site for about 4 weeks, and any redness, bruising or swelling will disappear in 4 to 6 weeks. Feeling burning or itching around the incision is normal. You may also experience a numb feeling around the incision and down your leg. This is normal and, if present, usually lasts about 2 months.
If the ovaries remain, you should not experience hormone-related effects. If the ovaries were removed with the uterus before menopause, you may experience the symptoms that often occur with menopause, such as hot flashes. Your health care provider may prescribe hormone replacement therapy to relieve menopausal symptoms.
Emotional reactions to hysterectomy vary, depending on how well you were prepared for the surgery, the reason for having it, and whether the problem has been treated.
Some women may feel a sense of loss or become depressed, but these emotional reactions are usually temporary. Other women may find that hysterectomy improves their health and well-being, and may even be a life-saving operation. Please discuss your emotional concerns with your health care provider.
As with any surgery, there is a slight chance that problems may occur. Problems could include blood clots, severe infection, bleeding after surgery, bowel blockage, urinary tract injury, or problems related to anesthesia.
Call your health care provider if you have:
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This information is provided by the Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition. For additional health information, please contact the Center for Consumer Health Information at the Cleveland Clinic (216) 444-3771 or toll-free (800) 223-2273 extension 43771. If you prefer, you may visit www.clevelandclinic.org/health/ or www.clevelandclinicflorida.org. This document was last reviewed on: 5/15/2012