Undergoing a Hysterectomy--the Basics
As with any other major medical procedure, being well-informed is a top priority if considering a hysterectomy. First of all, hysterectomy is the second most performed surgery (after caesarean operations) for women; in fact, 1 out of 3 American women may undergo this procedure before turning 60.
Although it’s one of the safest surgical procedures, there are risks; additionally, some studies estimate that from 10 to 90 % of hysterectomies are medically unnecessary. Because there is so much at stake, you should carefully weigh the pros and cons before making a decision, being sure to consider alternative treatments, if available/suitable for your unique situation.
Using either a vaginal, abdominal or laparoscopic-assisted abdominal hysterectomy, the surgeon will remove parts or the entire uterus (including the cervix, fallopian tubes, ovaries, and, sometimes, adjoining organs). The simplest approach involves removal of the uterus through the vagina; abdominal surgery, however, requires incisions, including the laparoscopic version (involving a tube with a camera inserted into the area).
Complications, Risks & Side-Effects
- Early menopause
- Urinary incontinence, frequency, and fistula
- Decreased sexual sensation/pleasure
- Vaginal dryness
- Depression (from loss of reproductive organs)
- Hormonal complications (possibly leading to cardiovascular problems, osteoporosis)
There may be a 2-to-4-day stay in the hospital for abdominal procedures, which then require a 4-to-6-week recovery time-frame; the less invasive vaginal and laparoscopic versions involve shorter periods (3-to-4-weeks).
Realize that hysterectomies are not reversible. After undergoing one, you will no longer be able to bear children and you may face other challenging changes. If the ovaries are removed, for example, you will undergo menopause sooner than expected. You may also need hormone replacement therapy. You made the right decision to get a hysterectomy if you:
- Considered/tried alternative treatments.
- Sought a second diagnostic opinion.
- Had a hysterectomy-necessary condition (cancer, endometriosis, fibroids, persistent bleeding, uterine prolapse, etc.).
- Can forego child-bearing.
- Are prepared to follow a post-hysterectomy, doctor-prescribed, well-being regimen.
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