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Hysterectomies are more common surgical procedures than many women think. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, a hysterectomy is the second most common surgery among women in the United States, with nearly 600,000 hysterectomies performed each year.
A hysterectomy is a potential treatment option for a variety of conditions. What are these conditions, and when should a woman consider a hysterectomy?
What it involves
First, it’s important to know what a hysterectomy is. “A totally hysterectomy is the removal of the cervix and uterus,” explains OB-GYN Dr. Steven Crawford with Kettering Physician Network Women’s Health.
“We usually also remove the fallopian tubes, and sometimes the surgery involves removal of the ovaries.”
Women can opt to have a hysterectomy for a variety of reasons. “The most common reasons are for symptomatic uterine fibroids, abnormal uterine bleeding, chronic pelvic pain, and prolapse,” says Dr. Crawford.
Misconceptions and considerations
Hysterectomies are usually only recommended after more conservative approaches have been exhausted.
Dr. Crawford explains that women complaining of abnormal uterine bleeding (AUB) can opt for hormone treatments, endometrial ablation, laparoscopy, or other noninvasive treatments before exploring hysterectomy as a treatment. “For example, many women experience significant symptom improvement through intrauterine device (IUD) placement or hormones, such as oral contraceptive pills or the Depo-Provera shot.”
Typically, women should only opt for a hysterectomy when they have completed their families and are done with childbearing.
Women who want to have a hysterectomy for pelvic pain should understand that the surgery may not stop pain altogether, though it usually significantly decreases it. Dr. Crawford also explains that a hysterectomy will not cause a woman to go into menopause unless the surgery is accompanied by removal of both ovaries.
A hysterectomy can be performed through open surgery, laparoscopic surgery, or robot-assisted surgery. At Kettering Health Network, gynecological surgeons can perform hysterectomies through minimally invasive approaches.
“We can perform a vaginal hysterectomy with no abdominal incisions,” says Dr. Crawford. “Minimally invasive surgeries have significant benefits, including less pain, faster recovery, and minimal to no narcotic use.”
Depending on the reason for your hysterectomy and the size of your uterus, your surgeon may opt for a more traditional open surgical approach. In this procedure, the surgeon makes a small incision in the lower abdomen. An abdominal hysterectomy usually requires a one- to two-day hospital stay.
The key, says Dr. Crawford, is to work with your OB-GYN to discuss treatment options. “For the properly selected patient, having a hysterectomy can offer major improvements in a woman’s quality of life.”
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