5 Types of Hysterectomy Surgeries
Hysterectomy is a surgery to treat many health conditions affecting a woman’s uterus and other reproductive organs. The name hysterectomy is sometimes confusing because there are actually five types of hysterectomy and various ways of doing this surgery.
If your doctor recommends a hysterectomy, it’s helpful to understand the different types of hysterectomies and what to expect after having one.
What Is a Hysterectomy?
Hysterectomy is a surgery to remove some or all of your uterus. It is the second most common surgery for women, next to a cesarean section.
Your uterus (womb) is the hollow, pear-shaped organ in your pelvis where a baby grows. The top of your uterus connects to the fallopian tubes and ovaries. At the bottom of your uterus is your cervix, which opens into your vagina.
Sometimes a hysterectomy is a life-saving procedure. Other times, doctors perform a hysterectomy to improve your quality of life. A hysterectomy treats health conditions like:
- Uterine fibroids. These noncancerous growths in the uterus can cause pain and heavy menstrual bleeding.
- Endometriosis. In this condition, tissue similar to the inside lining of your uterus grows outside of your uterus. It can cause painful, heavy periods.
- Uterine prolapse. Weak muscles in your pelvis allow your uterus to slip into your vagina, causing pelvic pain, constipation, and urinary incontinence.
- Abnormal uterine bleeding. Your doctor might recommend a hysterectomy if menstrual bleeding is unusually heavy, long-lasting, or happens outside of your normal menstrual periods.
- Cancer of the uterus, cervix, ovaries, or nearby organs.
Women who have a hysterectomy can no longer have children. Depending on your health condition and family planning goals, your doctor might recommend trying nonsurgical treatments first. Sometimes, you can delay a hysterectomy if you want to get pregnant.
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5 Types of Hysterectomy
Surgeons can perform different types of hysterectomies depending on your health condition.
- A partial hysterectomy, also called a supracervical hysterectomy, removes only the uterus. Your cervix remains in place. This is the least invasive type of hysterectomy.
- A total hysterectomy removes your entire uterus and cervix but not your ovaries. This is the most common type of hysterectomy.
- A hysterectomy with oophorectomy removes your uterus and one or both of your ovaries.
- A hysterectomy with salpingo-oophorectomy removes your uterus, one or both ovaries, and your fallopian tubes.
- A radical hysterectomy removes your uterus, cervix, top of your vagina, tissue around your uterus, and any nearby lymph nodes. This type of surgery is less common and used to treat certain types of cancer.
Types of Hysterectomy Procedures
When possible, surgeons use minimally invasive procedures when doing a hysterectomy. These require only tiny cuts — or sometimes no cuts at all. Minimally invasive surgeries typically result in less pain and faster recovery time.
Minimally invasive hysterectomy procedures include:
- Vaginal hysterectomy. With this technique, your surgeon doesn’t make any cuts in your abdomen. Instead, they remove your uterus, cervix, and, if needed, fallopian tubes and ovaries, through a small cut in your vagina. It’s the first choice whenever possible, but it may not work for all women.
- Laparoscopic hysterectomy. A surgeon makes very small cuts in your abdomen and inserts a laparoscope (a tiny camera) to see your pelvic organs. They use small instruments to remove your uterus or other organs through the cuts in your abdomen or your vagina.
- Robot-assisted laparoscopic hysterectomy. With this technique, your surgeon makes very small incisions in your abdomen but uses a robotic arm to help move the instruments.
If your surgeon can’t use minimally invasive procedures, they’ll do an open abdominal hysterectomy. They’ll make a large incision in your lower abdomen and remove your uterus and any other organs through that incision. Open surgery is more likely if you have cancer because there is a lower risk of spreading it to other organs.
You may need open surgery if your uterus is large, you have scar tissues, or to treat certain types of cancer. An advantage of this type of surgery is that your doctor can more closely examine your organs. With any open surgery, there are more complication risks, and you’ll have a longer recovery time.
What to Expect After a Hysterectomy
Your recovery after a hysterectomy will depend on the type of surgery you had and your overall health. It takes at least six weeks to recover from abdominal surgery because of the large cut in your abdomen. With laparoscopic surgery, recovery time is three to four weeks.
Your health care provider will give you medicine to manage pain from the surgery. They will also tell you how to care for your incisions, what activities are safe during recovery, and when you can drive. Walking is good, but you should avoid intense exercise during your recovery and not lift anything heavy until your incisions heal.
If you have monthly periods, they will stop after any type of hysterectomy. Many people worry that a hysterectomy causes you to go into early menopause, but that’s not always the case.
Only a hysterectomy that removes both of your ovaries (oophorectomy) causes early menopause — known as surgical menopause. Without your ovaries, you can’t make estrogen. As a result, you will immediately experience menopause changes like hot flashes, night sweats, vaginal dryness, and other symptoms.
However, even if you keep your ovaries, you may go through menopause earlier than average. The average age for menopause is 52 years.
Hysterectomy is a major, often life-changing surgery, and your health care team is here to support you every step of the way. Make sure you contact them with any questions or concerns if you’re contemplating or planning a hysterectomy.
About UPMC Magee-Womens
Built upon our flagship, UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital in Pittsburgh, and its century-plus history of providing high-quality medical care for people at all stages of life, UPMC Magee-Womens is nationally renowned for its outstanding care for women and their families.
Our Magee-Womens network – from women’s imaging centers and specialty care to outpatient and hospital-based services – provides care throughout Pennsylvania, so the help you need is always close to home. More than 25,000 babies are born at our network hospitals each year, with 10,000 of those babies born at UPMC Magee in Pittsburgh, home to one of the largest NICUs in the country. The Department of Health and Human Services recognizes Magee in Pittsburgh as a National Center of Excellence in Women’s Health; U.S. News & World Report ranks Magee nationally in gynecology. The Magee-Womens Research Institute was the first and is the largest research institute in the U.S. devoted exclusively to women’s health and reproductive biology, with locations in Pittsburgh and Erie.