A Hysterectomy is an operation to remove the womb (uterus). It may be advised for a number of reasons including the removal of Fibroids. At Kingsbridge Private Hospital our expert consultants will provide you with any information or concerns you have before you decide to have a hysterectomy.
What is a hysterectomy ?
The female reproductive organs are made up of a womb, vagina, Fallopian tubes and ovaries. The womb is about the size of a pear. It is made of specialised muscle and lies in the pelvis between the bladder and the bowel. A Hysterectomy is the removal of the womb by an operation.
A hysterectomy can treat a number of conditions that affect the reproductive system including irregular or heavy menstrual bleeding, endometriosis, prolapse or fibroids.
A hysterectomy can be performed by one of the following three ways:
- An abdominal hysterectomy, where your womb is removed through a cut in your abdomen
- And a laparoscopic (keyhole) hysterectomy – a procedure done through small cuts in your abdomen which can also be used to assist with vaginal hysterectomy.
There are different types of surgeries which may be available depending on your condition:
- Supracervical hysterectomy—removal of the uterus only
- Total hysterectomy—removal of the uterus and cervix (the opening of the uterus leading to the vagina)
- Radical hysterectomy—removal of the uterus, ovaries, fallopian tubes, upper part of the vagina, and the pelvic lymph nodes
- Salpingo-oophorectomy—removal of the ovaries and fallopian tubes (may be combined with any of the above procedures)
Usually your ovaries are usually left in place because they produce oestrogen – otherwise you would immediately go through the menopause. After a hysterectomy, you will no longer have periods or be able to become pregnant.
Why would I have a hysterectomy?
You may have a hysterectomy if your uterus is causing health problems that cannot be treated by other means.
Possible reasons include the following:
- Heavy or very painful periods. In some women, day-to-day life is made difficult because of heavy periods. Sometimes the heavy bleeding can cause anaemia. There are various other treatment options for heavy periods, including tablets and an intrauterine system (Mirena® coil). If they do not help to improve the problem, hysterectomy is an option for treatment. See separate leaflet called 'Heavy Periods (Menorrhagia)' for further information.
- Fibroids. These are swellings of abnormal muscle that grow in the womb. Fibroids are common and often do not cause any symptoms. However, in some women they can cause heavy or painful periods. Some fibroids are quite large and can press on the bladder to cause urinary symptoms.
- Prolapse. This is where the uterus or parts of the vaginal wall drop down. This may happen after the menopause when the tissues which support the uterus tend to become thinner and weaker.
- Endometriosis. This is a condition where the cells which line the uterus are found outside the uterus in the pelvis. This can cause scarring around the uterus, and may cause the bladder or rectum to stick to the uterus or Fallopian tubes. Endometriosis may cause only mild symptoms, but some women develop painful periods, abdominal pain or have pain during sex.
- Cancer. Hysterectomy may be advised if you develop cancer of the cervix, uterus, Fallopian tubes or ovaries.
What happens during a vaginal hysterectomy?
Vaginal hysterectomy usually takes about an hour, during which your surgeon will pass specially designed instruments through your vagina to remove your cervix and womb. The surgeon will then close the top of your vagina using dissolvable stitches and may place a tampon-shaped dressing in your vagina. With a vaginal hysterectomy you won’t have any visible cuts or scars.
What happens during an abdominal hysterectomy?
An abdominal hysterectomy usually takes around an hour, but this can vary depending on the complexity of the surgery.
In most cases, your surgeon will create a 10cm long incision across your lower abdomen, just below your bikini line. Your surgeon will remove your womb through the cut in your abdomen, then stitches, metal clips or glue can be used to close the cut and the area will be covered with a dressing.
Following your hysterectomy
Recovery time will depend on the type of hysterectomy treatment you've received.
With a vaginal hysterectomy, you will need to stay in hospital for one to two days, whereas with an abdominal hysterectomy most women will stay in hospital for two to four days depending on recovery.
Following surgery at Kingsbridge Private Hospital Belfast, it will usually take about four to six weeks to make a full recovery from a vaginal hysterectomy and most women are able to return to work between two and six weeks after the procedure.
An abdominal hysterectomy normally takes about 4 to 12 weeks to make a full recovery from. Most women find they are able to return to work between 4 and 8 weeks after the operation. During the recovery period you can lift light items, such as a kettle, but nothing heavy. Following surgery, we recommend that a friend or relative to stay with you for the first few days after your treatment.
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