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What Is a Hysterectomy? - Definition, Procedure, Complications & Side Effects

Instructor: Bethany Lieberman

Bethany is a certified OB/GYN nurse who has a master's degree in Nursing Education.

In this lesson you will learn about a surgical procedure known as a hysterectomy, which involves the removal of a woman's uterus. This lesson will also discuss the reasons one might need to undergo this procedure, and it will be followed with a short quiz.

A Trip to the Gynecologist

Joan was referred from her family doctor to a specialist, a gynecologist because she has been experiencing heavy vaginal bleeding and having a lot of abdominal pain. The gynecologist diagnosed her with having uterine fibroids and recommends that she have a surgical procedure called a hysterectomy.

Joan is concerned, she has never heard of fibroids or a hysterectomy before. The doctor explains that uterine fibroids are abnormal growths of tissue in the muscle wall of the uterus that are non-cancerous but can cause debilitating symptoms.

What Is a Hysterectomy and How Is It Performed?

The doctor then goes on to explain that a hysterectomy is a surgery to remove the uterus, a female reproductive organ where a baby is grown during pregnancy. Removing the uterus where the fibroids are growing will most likely relieve Joan of the symptoms she is experiencing. The doctor emphasizes that once Joan has a hysterectomy, Joan can no longer become pregnant.

There are multiple ways to perform a hysterectomy surgery. A total hysterectomy involves cutting through the abdominal wall and removing both the uterus and cervix, the structure that connects the uterus to the vagina. A supracervical hysterectomy removes just the uterus and leaves the cervix in place, which can be performed by making a cut on the abdomen or using scopes called laparoscopy. In some instances the structures surrounding the uterus may need to be removed as well, which is called a radical hysterectomy.

Joan should expect to remain in the hospital for a few days to recover. The surgical method that has the least amount of recovery time is called a vaginal hysterectomy, where the uterus is removed through the vaginal opening. There is no cutting through the abdomen to reach the uterus, so the patient can usually go home from the hospital sooner and return to normal daily activities.

Complications and Side Effects

Joan's doctor explains to her that the most commons complications with performing surgery are bleeding and infection. Other more serious side effects are accidental damage to other surrounding organs in the abdomen, blood clots in the legs or lungs, and reactions to anesthesia that may result in breathing complications or even death.

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