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What to Expect After a Hysterectomy

The most common non-obstetric surgical procedure for women in the United States to undergo is a hysterectomy, which is a surgery in which the uterus or womb is removed entirely. There are several reasons why women undertake this kind of procedure, beginning with the need to remove uterine tumors, most of which are benign in nature.

However, cancerous tumors in the uterus are also a possibility, and in such cases a hysterectomy will remove the cancerous tissue before it can spread to other parts of the body. Other reasons for having a hysterectomy include vaginal bleeding, pre-cancerous tissue in the cervix, uterine prolapse, and endometriosis, in which endometrial tissue begins to grow outside the uterus.

Overview of a Hysterectomy

Given the fact that the uterus is where a baby would grow during pregnancy, having a hysterectomy means that a woman can no longer become pregnant after the operation. If issues such as endometriosis or cancer are the reason for a hysterectomy, it’s possible that other organs might have to be removed as well, for instance the ovaries, the cervix, or the fallopian tubes. 

There are a number of different ways the surgery can be carried out, and the approach used will generally depend on the reason for the surgery, the size of a woman’s uterus and its specific position, and a woman’s general health. In an abdominal hysterectomy, the surgeon will make a cut in the belly either vertically or horizontally, and then remove the uterus and the cervix. This kind of hysterectomy is performed most often when cancer is indicated, or when severe endometriosis has occurred.

A vaginal hysterectomy is performed by removing the uterus through the vagina, so the surgeon would make a cut in the vagina rather than in the belly. This kind of hysterectomy is generally performed because cancer may be evident in the ovaries, cervix, or uterus. It is only possible to perform vaginal hysterectomies in cases where the uterus is relatively small and can be removed through the vagina.

A third type of hysterectomy is known as a laparoscopic surgery, and in this operation, the doctor will place a lighted tube into a small cut in a woman’s belly. With a camera that has been inserted in the tube, the doctor will be able to see the organs of the body, and will also be able to insert surgical tools which can cut the tissue that keep the uterus in position. 

Generally speaking, hysterectomies are performed under benign circumstances, which means that they are not done to remove cancerous tissue. Each year in this country, somewhere between 500,000 and one million hysterectomies are performed, and of these 66% are of the abdominal hysterectomy type, with 22% being vaginal hysterectomies, and another 12% being laparoscopic surgeries.

By the time women reach the age of 65, nearly 33% of them will have had a hysterectomy in order to handle some type of problem, or simply to remove the possibility of getting pregnant again. Hysterectomies are generally considered to be safe procedures, although there are a few potential complications which are generally associated with the surgery.

Depending on the type and method of the hysterectomy, it’s possible that bowel injuries may occur, such as an injury to the rectum or the ascending or descending colon. Bladder injuries can also occur, although the incidence of such complications is only 2% among all surgeries. For instance, it is possible that the bladder can be punctured during a vaginal hysterectomy.

For the most part any complications of this nature are generally corrected as the surgical procedure is in progress. However, in a few cases, women have reported postoperative incontinence because of injury to the bladder during surgery.

What Does the Recovery Process Look Like?

In the immediate aftermath of any kind of hysterectomy you might feel nauseous because of the anesthetic, or you might experience some kind of pain because of the actual surgery. You may also find that dressings have been placed over your surgical cuts, you might have an IV drip in your arm, there could be a catheter draining urine from your bladder, you might have a drainage tube in your abdomen to carry away blood, and there could be a gauze pack inserted in your vagina to minimize bleeding.

There will always be a brief recovery period in the hospital after you have undergone a hysterectomy, and the recovery period you have at home will depend on the type of surgery which you went through. When you’ve had an abdominal hysterectomy performed, you will generally be allowed to go home within two or three days of the surgery, but it will take another six to eight weeks before complete recovery has been accomplished.

During this time it is not advisable to be doing housework, especially anything involving heavy lifting. Such activities which involve minimal exertion and no strain, for instance walking, are the ones best suited for your recovery. After about six weeks, you should be able to get back to something like a normal schedule and perform all your regular activities.

For women who have undergone a vaginal hysterectomy, the recovery period is generally much shorter, in the neighborhood of about two weeks. This is because the surgery which is performed is far less invasive than during an abdominal hysterectomy, and it’s even possible for most women to go home on the same day of the surgery, or at least by the day after. As in the case of an abdominal hysterectomy, it will be necessary to avoid having sex for at least six weeks after the surgery.

A laparoscopic hysterectomy is the least invasive of all surgical procedures, and it can involve a recovery period of somewhere between six days and two weeks. All three types of hysterectomies are accompanied by restrictions on heavy lifting, and the most recommended form of activity for anyone having undergone one of the surgery types is simple walking for basic exercise. 

Walking is considered to be the best activity for patients recovering from a hysterectomy because it helps to restore normal blood flow, and it also helps to reduce the risk of blood clots forming in your legs. In some cases, a physiotherapist will instruct you on how to perform some exercises which will improve your mobility, and possibly to do some pelvic floor muscle exercises which promote recovery. If stitches were used during surgery, these will be taken out approximately five to seven days following surgery.

Schedule Your Procedure TodayThere are several reasons why a woman may need to undertake one of these procedures, and if you do end up needing to schedule one, you need to be able to work with a state of the art medical facility. North Texas Medical Center, a leading obstetrician in Gainesville, is expanding its women’s services to provide the community with newer and better technologies for treatment. For more details, please contact us today.