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What do I need to know about a hysterectomy?

A hysterectomy is surgery to remove your uterus. Your ovaries, fallopian tubes, cervix, or part of your vagina may also need to be removed. The organs and tissue that will be removed depends on your medical condition.

How do I prepare for a hysterectomy?

Your healthcare provider will talk to you about how to prepare for surgery. He may tell you not to eat or drink anything after midnight on the day of your surgery. You will need to stop taking aspirin 7 to 10 days before your procedure. You will need to stop taking NSAIDs 3 days before you procedure. You will also need to stop taking certain herbal supplements 7 days before your procedure. These include garlic, gingko biloba, and ginseng. Your provider will tell you what medicines to take or not take on the day of your surgery. You will be given an antibiotic through your IV to help prevent a bacterial infection. Arrange for someone to drive you home and stay with you after surgery.

What will happen during a hysterectomy?

  • You may be given general anesthesia to keep you asleep and free from pain during surgery. You may instead be given regional anesthesia to numb the lower part of your body. Your uterus may be removed through your vagina (vaginal hysterectomy) or through a an incision in your abdomen (abdominal hysterectomy). It may also be done through several small incisions in your abdomen (laparoscopic hysterectomy). During a laparoscopic hysterectomy, a laparoscope and other tools will be put into your abdomen through the small incisions. The laparoscope is a long metal tube with a light and camera on the end. Your abdomen will be filled with a gas. This allows your surgeon to see inside your abdomen more clearly.
  • Your surgeon will cut and tie the ligaments that hold your uterus in place. The blood vessels that go to your uterus will also be tied to help decrease bleeding. Your surgeon may also remove other organs or tissue such as your ovaries, fallopian tubes, cervix, lymph nodes, or part of your vagina.
  • Your surgeon may instead use robotic arms to place a laparoscope and other tools inside your abdomen through the incisions. He will use the machine to look inside your abdomen and guide the robotic arms. He will use the tools attached to the robotic arms to remove your uterus, cervix, or other tissues.
  • Any incisions that were made during surgery will be closed with stitches, staples, surgical glue, or surgical tape. The incisions may be covered with a bandage. A vaginal pack or sanitary pad may be used to absorb the bleeding. A vaginal pack is a special gauze that is inserted into the vagina. It is removed before you go home or to a hospital room.

What will happen after a hysterectomy?

You may have a catheter to help drain your bladder for up to 24 hours. You may also have pain in your shoulders or near your ribs if gas was put in your abdomen. You will have pain for the first few days after surgery. You will need to wear sanitary pads for vaginal bleeding that occurs after surgery. You will be asked to walk as soon as possible after surgery. This will help to prevent blood clots in your legs. You may need to stay in the hospital for 1 to 4 days after surgery. The length of time depends on the type of hysterectomy you had.

What are the risks of a hysterectomy?

  • The surgeon may need to change the type of surgery he was planning to do. For example, he may need to change from a laparoscopic surgery to an open abdominal surgery. You will not be able to become pregnant after you have a hysterectomy. You will go through menopause if your ovaries are removed.
  • You may bleed more than expected or get an infection. Your bladder, ureters, or bowels may be damaged during surgery. If your ureters were injured, you may need a catheter to drain your bladder for several days to weeks. You may get scar tissue in your abdomen that blocks your intestine or causes pelvic pain. If you have a hysterectomy to treat cancer, this surgery may not take it away completely. There is also a chance that the cancer may return. You may get a blood clot in your leg or arm. This may become life-threatening.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

© 2016 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.