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How do I prepare for a hysterectomy?
A healthcare provider will explain the procedure in detail, including possible complications and side effects. Talk to them about any concerns you have. You may be asked to provide blood and urine samples.
What happens during a hysterectomy?
Your healthcare provider will determine the type of hysterectomy you need and the best surgical method to perform that procedure. You will change into a hospital gown and get hooked up to monitors that track your heart rate. An intravenous (IV) line is placed in a vein in your arm to deliver medications and fluids.
An anesthesiologist will give you either:
- General anesthesia in which you will not be awake during the procedure; or
- Regional anesthesia (also called epidural or spinal anesthesia) in which medications are placed near the nerves in your lower back to “block” pain while you stay awake.
There are several different surgical approaches your healthcare provider may use to perform a hysterectomy:
- Your uterus is removed through an incision at the top of your vagina. There is no external incision.
- Dissolvable stitches are placed inside the vagina.
- Most commonly used in cases of uterine prolapse and other non-malignant (or noncancerous) conditions.
- Fewest complications and fastest recovery (up to four weeks) and is considered the preferred approach.
- Patients often go home the same day of surgery.
- A laparoscope (a thin tube with a video camera on the end) is inserted in the lower abdomen through a small incision in the belly button.
- Surgical tools are inserted through several other small incisions.
- Your uterus can be removed in small pieces through the incisions in your abdomen or through your vagina.
- Some people go home the same day or after one night in the hospital.
- Full recovery is shorter and less painful than an abdominal hysterectomy.
Robotic-assisted laparoscopic hysterectomy:
- Your surgeon performs the procedure with the help of a robotic machine.
- A laparoscope is inserted in the abdomen so the pelvic area can be viewed.
- Small, thin surgical tools are inserted through three to five incisions around the belly button. Robotic arms and instruments are controlled by the surgeon.
- The recovery is similar to a laparoscopic hysterectomy.
- Your uterus is removed through a six- to eight-inch-long incision in your abdomen.
- The incision is made either from your belly button to your pubic bone, or across the top of your public hairline. The surgeon will use stitches or staples to close the incision.
- Most commonly used when cancer is involves, when the uterus is enlarged or when disease spreads to other pelvic areas.
- It generally requires a longer hospital stay (two or three days) and a longer recovery time.
How long does a hysterectomy procedure last?
The procedure lasts one to three hours. The time can vary depending on the size of the uterus, and the need to take down scarring from previous surgeries, and if other tissue, such as endometrial tissue, and other organs are being removed with your uterus (like your fallopian tubes or ovaries).
What are the most common side effects of a hysterectomy?
Some of the most common side effects of a hysterectomy are vaginal drainage (may occur up to six weeks after surgery) and irritation at the incision sites.
If your ovaries were removed at the time of your hysterectomy, you may experience menopausal symptoms such as:
- Hot flashes.
- Vaginal dryness.
- Loss of libido.
- Difficulty sleeping (insomnia).
Your doctor will discuss treatment options to avoid the side effects of menopause mentioned above.
What happens after a hysterectomy?
The amount of time you spend in the hospital following a hysterectomy varies depending on what kind of surgery you had. Your healthcare provider will want to monitor you and ensure there are no signs of complications like blood clots or bleeding. You’ll walk around as soon as possible after your surgery to prevent blood clots in your legs.
If you had an abdominal hysterectomy, you might stay in the hospital for a few days. Vaginal and laparoscopic hysterectomies are less invasive and typically do not require any overnight stay in the hospital.
Your healthcare provider will go over recovery instructions, including restrictions to your day-to-day activities. Be sure to discuss any concerns you have about your recovery or the procedure.