What is a hysterectomy?
Jennifer Shaw, MD, is an OB/GYN on staff at Banner Estrella Medical Center. Her office can be reached at (480) 821-3616.
Question: Can you please discuss some of the reasons why a woman would need a hysterectomy, as well as what exactly the surgical procedure entails?
Answer: Hysterectomy is one of the most common surgical procedures performed for American women, second only to cesarean section. Every year in the U.S. there are roughly 600,000 hysterectomies performed. More than 20 million American women have undergone a hysterectomy.
There are numerous reasons why a woman might need or choose to have a hysterectomy. A hysterectomy is often a medical necessity when uterine, cervical or ovarian cancer, fibroid tumors, or other medical conditions threaten the health or life of the patient.
In other instances, a hysterectomy may be best course of action. A physician may recommend a hysterectomy due to conditions such as endometriosis, chronic pelvic pain, ovarian cysts, uterine prolapse, and ectopic pregnancy.
Depending on the health history of the patient and reason for the procedure, a hysterectomy can take one of several forms. With a partial or supracervical hysterectomy, the surgeon removes the body of the uterus, leaving the cervix in place.
More commonly, a total or simple hysterectomy is done: the surgeon removes the entire uterus, as well as the cervix.
When a hysterectomy with bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy is performed, the surgeon removes the uterus, cervix, ovaries and fallopian tubes.
The most extensive type of hysterectomy is the radical hysterectomy. During this procedure the uterus, cervix, ovaries, fallopian tubes, and, if necessary, the upper portions of the vagina and affected lymph nodes is removed. This is done only for cancers.
A hysterectomy is typically performed only after other treatment options have been explored and found to be unsuccessful in addressing the underlying problem. Nowadays there are often better options: for example, many cases of uterine bleeding that formerly required hysterectomy are now successfully treated with endometrial ablation, where the lining of the uterus is destroyed but the uterus left in place. This can often be done in the office or at an outpatient surgery facility, and the woman can return to totally normal activity within a few days. It’s always important to be well-informed about your health and the treatment options that are available to you. Contact your healthcare provider if you have any questions or would like more information.