A hysterectomy is the surgical removal of the uterus. Depending upon the situation, it may also involve the removal of the cervix, ovaries, and fallopian tubes. About 600,000 hysterectomies are performed every year in the US. While this surgery is usually safe and uncomplicated, it should only be done when all medical treatments have been exhausted.
The most common reasons for a hysterectomy are:
- Uterine or cervical cancer
- Uterine prolapse (when the uterus falls from its normal position)
- Pelvic pain
A hysterectomy can be performed in a number of ways:
Open abdominal hysterectomy – the uterus is removed through a skin incision 5-6 inches in length. This approach is used when the uterus is large or when cancer is suspected.
Vaginal hysterectomy – the uterus is removed through the vagina. This is most commonly used when the uterus is small or the procedure is done for proplapse.
Laparoscopic-assisted vaginal hysterectomy (LAVH) – a camera is inserted through the belly button and instruments are placed through small incisions in the abdomen. The uterus is freed from its abdominal connections laparoscopically, and then ultimately removed from the body vaginally.
Your doctor will explain the options for hysterectomy and help you decide which approach is right for you.