A hysterectomy is the surgical removal of the uterus. This procedure is not reversable, which may make you wonder why a hysterectomy would be necessary.
We reached out to Nichole Mahnert, MD, a gynecologist at Banner - University Medicine Women’s Institute, to learn more about hysterectomies. She explained there are a few different kinds of hysterectomies, including:
- Total hysterectomy – removal of uterus and cervix
- Subtotal hysterectomy – removal of only the uterus; cervix remains intact
- Oophorectomy – removal of ovaries
A common misconception with hysterectomies is that a woman will lose her ovaries as well, but that is not the case unless she has an oophorectomy. Most patients will keep their ovaries.
When removing the uterus, it is common for the fallopian tubes to be removed, as well, to reduce a woman’s risk of developing ovarian cancer.
So why might a woman have a hysterectomy?
A hysterectomy is usually performed as a definitive treatment for a gynecological problem, such as heavy or irregular vaginal bleeding, fibroids or pelvic pain. According to Dr. Mahnert, hysterectomies are performed as a last resort for treatment.
“We always try the least invasive approach first – treatments such as medications, physical therapy and other less invasive procedures are done before performing a hysterectomy,” said Dr. Mahnert.
This procedure also eliminates a woman’s ability to become pregnant.
Surgical techniques for performing hysterectomies
The type of surgical hysterectomy performed will vary depending on the doctor’s preference and the patient’s medical situation. Dr. Mahnert is a minimally invasive surgeon and prefers performing hysterectomies vaginally or laparoscopically when possible, rather than performing an open abdominal hysterectomy. But again, it just depends on the patient and her specific situation.
- Vaginal hysterectomy – Surgeon removes the uterus through an incision in the vagina. Recovery time is typically 2-6 weeks.
- Laparoscopic hysterectomy – Surgeon guides a laparoscope (a thin tube with a camera attached) and surgical tools through small incisions on the stomach. The laparoscope will show the surgery being performed on a screen for the doctor to use as a guide. Recovery time is typically 2-6 weeks.
- Open abdominal hysterectomy – Surgeon will perform an open hysterectomy through a large incision on the stomach. Recovery time is typically 4-8 weeks.
Preparing for surgery
According to Dr. Mahnert, one of the most common questions women ask prior to having a hysterectomy is: How will I feel? Well, women can expect to feel extremely tired post-surgery. Surgery is a big stressor on the body, and you will feel the repercussions of that. Dr. Mahnert focuses a lot on guiding her patients through simple steps they can do to prepare for their surgery.
Dr. Mahnert’s key surgery prep tips are:
- Eat more fruits and vegetables
- Stay hydrated
- Limit processed food
- Manage stress levels
- Do not smoke
Nichole Mahnert, MD, gynecologist at Banner - University Medicine Women’s Institute