What is a hysterectomy?
Hysterectomy is the surgical removal of the uterus. It ends menstruation and the ability to become pregnant. Depending on the reason for the surgery, a hysterectomy may also involve the removal of other organs and tissues, such as the ovaries and/or fallopian tubes.
- A supracervical hysterectomy is the removal of the upper part of the uterus leaving the cervix behind.
- A total hysterectomy is the removal of the uterus and cervix.
- A total hysterectomy with bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy is the removal of the uterus, cervix, fallopian tubes (salpingo) and ovaries (oophor). If you haven't experienced menopause, removing the ovaries will usually start it since your body can no longer produce as much estrogen.
- A radical hysterectomy with bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy is the removal of the uterus, cervix, fallopian tubes, ovaries, the upper portion of the vagina and some surrounding tissue, and lymph nodes. A radical hysterectomy may be performed to treat cervical or uterine cancer.
Top image: Pelvic organs before hysterectomy
Bottom image: Pelvic organs after hysterectomy
Why is hysterectomy performed?
A hysterectomy may be performed to treat:
- Abnormal vaginal bleeding that is not controlled by other treatment methods
- Severe endometriosis (uterine tissue that grows outside the uterus)
- Leiomyomas or uterine fibroids (not cancerous tumors) that have increased in size, are painful or are causing bleeding
- Increased pelvic pain related to the uterus but not controlled by other treatment
- Uterine prolapse (uterus that has "dropped" into the vaginal canal due to weakened support muscles) that can lead to urinary incontinence or difficulty with bowel movements
- Cervical or uterine cancer or abnormalities that may lead to cancer for cancer prevention
Are there alternatives to hysterectomy?
Yes. A hysterectomy is only one way to treat problems affecting the uterus. For certain conditions, however, hysterectomy may be the best choice. Please ask your healthcare provider to discuss what alternatives are available to treat your specific condition.