A hysterectomy is one of the most well-known and commonly performed gynecological procedures for women. However, did you know that several different types of hysterectomies exist? While the term “hysterectomy” is used frequently in conversation, many women are unaware of the different options available to them—and, much less, their potential side effects. You don’t have to be one of them, though! Let’s learn together with this helpful rundown of the four types of hysterectomies and the side effects that go along with getting one.
What Is a Hysterectomy (and Why Get One)?
A hysterectomy is a surgical procedure performed to partially or fully remove a woman’s uterus. Depending on the need behind the surgery, the Fallopian tubes and ovaries may also be removed. There are several different reasons your gynecologist might propose that you get a hysterectomy. These include, but are not limited to:
- Abnormal uterine bleeding
- Pelvic pain
- Prolapsed uterus
- Cancer of the uterus, cervix, or ovaries
- Desire for more permanent contraception
Types of Hysterectomies
There are two different classifications for hysterectomies. One depends on how much of the uterus and its surrounding organs are removed. The other is based on the surgical technique used to perform the procedure. The following types of hysterectomies are those classified by the amount of uterine tissue and other organs that are removed.
- Partial Hysterectomy: Only a portion of the uterus is removed during surgery.
- Complete Hysterectomy: The uterus, both ovaries, and the Fallopian tubes are removed. This procedure is generally followed by hormone replacement therapy because the ovaries oversee hormone regulation in the female body.
- Total Hysterectomy: Both the uterus and cervix are fully removed. This can be performed either vaginally or through the abdomen.
- Subtotal Hysterectomy: The uterus is completely removed during surgery, while the cervix is left in place.
Surgical Techniques Used in a Hysterectomy
With the continuing advancement of surgical technology, hysterectomies are becoming less invasive and less risky. There are several different options that now exist for this procedure, and your surgeon will pick the best option for you based on your reason for the surgery and your risk conditions, in addition to some other factors. These options include the vaginal approach, the abdominal approach, the laparoscopic approach, and the robotic surgery approach.
The vaginal approach is minimally invasive, as the uterus is taken out via the vaginal opening. This technique will be utilized if you have a normal-sized uterus, and the doctor feels no need to look at the surrounding area (generally in the case of a prolapsed uterus or vaginal repairs due to certain conditions). Since there is no external incision made, no scarring will be visible. Out of all the surgical techniques for hysterectomies, the vaginal approach leads to the least amount of postoperative pain. You can expect to stay in the hospital 0-1 nights after a vaginal hysterectomy procedure, with 4-6 weeks of reduced activity afterward.
In the abdominal approach, an incision will be made to the lower abdomen that is six to eight inches in length. The uterus will then be removed through this incision. This approach is commonly used when a larger surgery is needed to remove the ovaries and Fallopian tubes (along with the uterus), if the uterus is swollen, if large fibroids are present, or if a disease such as cancer or endometriosis has spread into the pelvic cavity. After surgery, you will be required to stay in the hospital 2-3 nights and reduce your activity for the following 4-6 weeks.
The laparoscopic approach inserts a small camera (known as a laparoscope) into the stomach through the belly button. Though this only requires a very small incision, it allows the doctors to see throughout the abdominal-pelvic cavity. Additional incisions will be made in the lower abdomen for surgical tools. Then, the uterus can either be removed through the laparoscope tube or the vaginal opening. This procedure may also leave small scars visible on the abdomen. Following your operation, you will stay in the hospital 0-1 nights, and then reduce your daily activity for 4-6 weeks afterward.
Robotic hysterectomy surgery is a technique that employs a mixture of robotic technology, high-definition 3-D imaging, and tiny tools that improve the doctor’s ability to see, manipulate, and remove the uterus. Four to five small incisions will be made in the lower abdomen to give the robot arms and surgical tools the access they need to get to the uterus. As the tools used in surgery will be very small, there will be less pain following your operation, and the healing of the incisions will take place much more quickly. Small scars will be left on the abdomen after this surgery, but post-operative recovery will be the same as for the vaginal and laparoscopic approaches, with 0-1 nights spent in the hospital and a reduction in your activity for 4-6 weeks.
Side Effects of a Hysterectomy
The side effects for a hysterectomy will vary from woman to woman, as every body and procedure are unique. There is always some risk involved in getting a hysterectomy, just as there is with any surgical procedure. However, the short-term risks for a hysterectomy are usually very minimal and mild, occurring within the first 30 days after your procedure takes place. These might include:
- Blood loss
- Blood clots
- Damage to the areas surrounding the surgical site, such as the bladder, nerves, and blood vessels
- Adverse reaction to the anesthesia
There is also one long-term risk associated with getting a hysterectomy: a pelvic prolapse might occur, in which your pelvic organs stretch or fall into an atypical position. This is a significant risk, but it is quite rare, and women who have a previous history of abdominal surgeries or pelvic prolapse are more likely to experience it than those who have not.
Be aware that a hysterectomy will cause menstruation to cease if you have not already reached menopause, and pregnancy will not be possible. That said, there should be no change to your libido or sexual pleasure following a hysterectomy.
For More Information
This is just a brief overview of the primary types of hysterectomy procedures, as well as their potential side effects. However, there is always more information available. To learn more, call The Woman’s Clinic today at 501-664-4131, or contact us online to make an appointment. Our experienced doctors will be happy to meet with you to determine your ideal treatment plan and answer any questions you may have about hysterectomies.