(Surgical Removal of the Uterus [or Womb]; Abdominal Hysterectomy; Vaginal Hysterectomy)
by Editorial Staff and Contributors
Click here to view an animated version of this procedure.
Hysterectomy is the surgical term for the removal of the uterus (womb). This results in the inability to become pregnant.
There are different types of surgeries, such as:
Reasons for Procedure TOP
You may have a hysterectomy if your uterus is causing health problems that cannot be treated by other means. Some reasons a woman may have a hysterectomy are to:
Explore your options before having a hysterectomy. There are other treatments for many of these problems.
Possible Complications TOP
If you are planning to have hysterectomy, your doctor will review a list of possible complications, which may include:
Some factors that may increase the risk of complications include:
Be sure to discuss the risks with your doctor before surgery.
What to Expect TOP
Prior to Procedure
Your doctor may do the following:
You should do the following:
General anesthesia is usually used for this surgery. Anesthesia blocks pain and keeps you asleep through the surgery. It is given through an IV in your hand or arm.
Description of the Procedure
You may be given antibiotics just before surgery. There are two different methods that are described here.
Open Abdominal Hysterectomy
The doctor will make a cut in your lower abdomen. This is done to expose the tissue and blood vessels that surround the uterus. The tissue will then be cut. The blood vessels will be tied off. The uterus will be removed. Next, the doctor will sew the tissue back together and close the skin with stitches or staples. If the cervix is also removed, you will also have stitches put in the back of your vagina.
Open Vaginal Hysterectomy
This method will not involve any outside incisions. The doctor will stretch the vagina and keep it open with special tools. Next, the doctor will cut free the uterus and cervix. The connecting blood vessels will be tied off. The doctor will then remove the uterus and cervix through the vagina. Lastly, the doctor will close the top of the vagina with stitches.
With each procedure, a vaginal "packing" (sterile gauze) is placed in the vagina. This will be removed after 1-2 days.
Immediately After Procedure
In the recovery room, you will have IV fluids and medicines.
How Long Will It Take?
Will It Hurt?
You will not have pain during the surgery because of the anesthesia. During your recovery time, your doctor will give you pain medicine.
Average Hospital Stay
Your doctor may choose to keep you longer if you have any complications.
At the Hospital
While you are recovering at the hospital, you may receive the following care:
During the first few days, you may have pain, bloating, vaginal bleeding, and vaginal discharge.
When you return home, do the following to help ensure a smooth recovery:
Recovery from open abdominal hysterectomy usually takes 6-8 weeks.
Call Your Doctor TOP
After you leave the hospital, call your doctor if any of the following occur:
In case of an emergency, call for medical help right away.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
National Uterine Fibroids Foundation
The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada
Women's Health Matters
Hysterectomy. New York State, Department of Health website. Available at: http://www.womensh... . Updated January 2010. Accessed August 25, 2012.
Hysterectomy: frequently asked questions. Women's Health.gov website. Available at: http://www.womenshealth.gov . Updated December 15, 2009. Accessed August 25, 2012.
Women's reproductive health: hysterectomy. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/reproductivehealth/WomensRH/Hysterectomy.htm .Updated May 7, 2009. Accessed August 25, 2012.
Last reviewed December 2013 by Andrea Chisholm, MD
Last Updated: 01/15/2014