Many people ask the question ‘what is a hysterectomy?’ as they aren’t sure what is actually removed. Hysterectomy is defined as the “surgical removal of the uterus” (womb).
It is one of the most common of all surgical procedures and can also involve the removal of the fallopian tubes, ovaries and cervix to cure or alleviate a number of gynaecological complaints. Following this operation you will no longer have periods, you will not be fertile and you will not be able to have any more children.
There are two main ways to perform a hysterectomy. The most common way is to remove the uterus through a cut in the lower abdomen, the second, less common, way is to remove the uterus only through a cut in the top of the vagina, the top of vagina is then stitched. Each operation lasts between one to two hours and is performed, in hospital, under a general anaesthetic.
Up to 38,000 hysterectomy operations are carried out on women through the NHS in the UK every year, and it may be as many as 55,000 when private operations are also taken into account; this figure means that one in five of all women will have a hysterectomy at some point in their life.
It is what is termed ‘elective surgery’ this means that in most cases it is a choice that a woman has rather than an emergency procedure. It is rarely performed for reasons of saving life, although there are a number of instances where it might be necessary for this reason.
The majority of hysterectomies are performed when a woman is aged between 40 – 50, however many do occur before and after this age group. Women who have a hysterectomy that removes their ovaries, as well as other organs, will go through the menopause immediately (if they haven’t already) following the operation regardless of their age, this is known as a surgical menopause. Women who have a hysterectomy that leaves one or both of their ovaries intact have a 50% chance of going through the menopause within five years of their operation, again regardless of their age.
The Pocket Guide to Hysterectomy – £5.50 from The Hysterectomy Association. This is essential reading and tell you everything you need to know about the menopause after a hysterectomy.
- Why not check out our types of hysterectomy forum