(Removal of the Uterus)

Procedure overview

What is a hysterectomy?

Illustration of the different types of hysterectomy
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Hysterectomy is the surgical removal of the uterus. Different portions of the uterus, as well as other organs, may be removed at the same time.

The types of hysterectomy include:

In addition to the different types of hysterectomies, there are different surgical techniques used to perform a hysterectomy. Surgical hysterectomy techniques include:

The type of hysterectomy performed and the technique used to perform the procedure will be determined by your physician, based upon your particular situation.

For women who have not yet reached menopause, having a hysterectomy means that menstruation will no longer occur, nor will pregnancy be possible.

What are female pelvic organs?

Illustration of the anatomy of the female pelvic area
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The organs and structures of the female pelvis are:

Reasons for the procedure

Reasons for performing a hysterectomy include, but are not limited to, the following:

Hysterectomy may also be performed when uterine prolapse (the uterus drops down into the vagina) occurs, or in the presence of chronic pelvic conditions, such as pelvic pain or pelvic inflammatory disease that do not respond to other treatments.

There may be other reasons for your physician to recommend a hysterectomy.

Risks of the procedure

As with any surgical procedure, complications may occur. Some possible complications include, but are not limited to, the following:

Women who have not reached menopause prior to a hysterectomy may experience menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes, mood swings, and vaginal dryness after the procedure.

Mood swings, depression, and feelings of loss of sexual identity may occur after hysterectomy.

There may be other risks depending upon your specific medical condition. Be sure to discuss any concerns with your physician prior to the procedure.

Before the procedure

During the procedure

Hysterectomy generally requires a stay in a hospital. Procedures may vary depending on your condition and your physician's practices.

The procedure will vary depending on the type of procedure and surgical technique used.

Generally, a hysterectomy follows this process:

Abdominal hysterectomy

Vaginal hysterectomy

Laparoscope-assisted vaginal hysterectomy

Procedure completion, all methods

After the procedure

In the hospital

After the procedure, you will be taken to the recovery room for observation. Your recovery process will vary depending upon the type of procedure performed and the type of anesthesia that is given. Once your blood pressure, pulse, and breathing are stable and you are alert, you will be taken to your hospital room.

Abdominal cramping may occur after the surgery. You may receive pain medication as needed, either by a nurse or by administering it yourself through a device connected to your intravenous line.

If your procedure was an abdominal hysterectomy, you may have a thin, plastic tube inserted through your nose into your stomach to remove air that you swallow. The tube will be removed when your bowels resume normal function. You will not be able to eat or drink until the tube is removed.

You may have small to moderate amounts of vaginal drainage for several days. The nurse will check the sanitary pads periodically to monitor the amount of drainage.

You will be encouraged to get out of bed within a few hours after a vaginal procedure or by the next day after an abdominal procedure. In addition, you should perform coughing and deep breathing exercises as instructed by your nurse.

Depending on your situation, you may be given liquids to drink a few hours after surgery. Your diet may be gradually advanced to more solid foods as tolerated.

Arrangements will be made for a follow-up visit with your physician, usually several weeks after the procedure.

At home

Once you are home, it is important to keep the incision clean and dry. Your physician will give you specific bathing instructions. If stitches or surgical staples are used, they will be removed during a follow-up office visit, if they were not removed prior to your discharge from the hospital. If adhesive strips are used, they should be kept dry and generally will fall off within a few days.

The incision and the abdominal muscles may ache, especially after long periods of standing. If a laparoscope was used, you may experience shoulder pain from the carbon dioxide in your abdomen. Take a pain reliever for soreness as recommended by your physician. Aspirin or certain other pain medications may increase the chance of bleeding. Be sure to take only recommended medications.

Walking and limited movement are generally encouraged, but strenuous activity should be avoided. Your physician will instruct you about when you can return to work and resume normal activities.

Avoid becoming constipated by including fiber and plenty of liquids in your diet. Your physician may recommend a mild laxative.

If a laparoscopic procedure was performed, you should avoid drinking carbonated beverages for one to two days after the procedure. This will help minimize the discomfort associated with the carbon dioxide gas. In addition, drinking carbonated beverages may cause nausea.

You should not use a douche, tampons, engage in sexual intercourse, or return to work until your physician advises you to do so.

Notify your physician to report any of the following:

Following a hysterectomy, your physician may give you additional or alternate instructions, depending on your particular situation.

Online resources

The content provided here is for informational purposes only, and was not designed to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease, or replace the professional medical advice you receive from your physician. Please consult your physician with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your condition.

This page contains links to other websites with information about this procedure and related health conditions. We hope you find these sites helpful, but please remember we do not control or endorse the information presented on these websites, nor do these sites endorse the information contained here.

American Cancer Society

American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists

American College of Surgeons

American Society for Reproductive Medicine

National Cancer Institute (NCI)

National Institutes of Health (NIH)

National Library of Medicine

National Women's Health Information Center


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