A hysterectomy is the most extreme treatment for a number of reproductive diseases. Here, Marla Ahlgrimm explains what it is and when it’s used.
Q: What, exactly, is a hysterectomy?
Marla Ahlgrimm: This is a surgical procedure that removes the uterus. Typically, when a woman has a hysterectomy, her entire uterus is removed. Additionally, depending on the cause, the fallopian tubes and ovaries may also be removed. A woman who has had a hysterectomy is no longer able to become pregnant.
Q: What are some reason’s a doctor might suggest this radical action?
Marla Ahlgrimm: Usually, this is reserved only for extreme cases where a woman would suffer more with her uterus left intact. For example, recurrent uterine fibroids, which can trigger severe pain and heavy bleeding. A hysterectomy may also be performed to correct uterine prolapse, adenomyosis, or endometriosis. The latter of the two conditions result in uterine tissue growing where it doesn’t belong. Uterine, ovarian, or cervical cancer may also warrant a full hysterectomy.
Q: Are there alternative treatments to uterine prolapse?
Marla Ahlgrimm: Women with uterine prolapse, which is often caused by multiple childbirths, may wish to consider a vaginal pessary to help with this condition. This is a less invasive procedure that involves inserting a ring-shaped support into the vagina to keep the uterus in place.
Q: How often is hysterectomy surgery performed?
Marla Ahlgrimm: More than half a million women elect hysterectomy each year. It is considered one of the top three surgeries performed throughout the country. There are three types of hysterectomy. These include total, where the cervix is removed along with the uterus; partial, which removes only the upper portion; and radical, which removes not only the uterus, but the tissue to either side as well as the upper section of the vagina and cervix.