Hysterectomy is the surgical removal of the uterus. In the United States, hysterectomy is the second most common operation in women that is only surpassed by a caesarean section. Surgeons perform approximately 600,000 hysterectomies in this country each year. It is estimated that every third American woman has a hysterectomy before she turns 60.
Why a hysterectomy?
A woman could have a hysterectomy to treat a number of gynecological conditions, including:
• Abnormal bleeding: changes in a woman’s normal menstrual cycle characterized by heavy to light bleeding between periods or excessive bleeding during the periods. Abnormal bleeding is a symptom of an underlying condition such as poor nutrition, hormonal imbalance, or tumor growth.
• Fibroids: non-cancerous tumors or growths that form on the inner or outer wall of the uterus. They are not always obvious.
• Uterine prolapse: The uterus collapses or slides from its normal position in the pelvis into the vagina. Surgery is needed if symptoms such as chronic pain, frequent urination, or cystitis affect a woman’s normal life.
• Endometriosis: when the tissue that normally lines the inside of the uterus begins to grow outside the uterus or on other organs. This condition is often painful.
• Gynecological cancer: abnormal growth of cells in the female reproductive system. Uterine cancer is the most common gynecological cancer in the United States. Around 35,000 new cases and 3,000 deaths are registered each year.
How is a hysterectomy performed?
Two surgical techniques are used to remove part or all of the uterus: open surgery and laparoscopic surgery. In traditional open surgery, surgeons make a large incision about 5 to 7 inches in length in the abdomen to access and remove the uterus. In laparoscopic surgery, surgeons insert small special tools, including a camera, and cut and reach through several small incisions to reach and remove the uterus.
Both types of surgery typically take several hours and require three to four days of hospitalization and a recovery period of up to four weeks. Short or long lasting hysterectomy pain usually occurs after surgery.
What are the risks of a hysterectomy?
A hysterectomy carries the normal risk of major surgery:
• Bad response to anesthesia
• Allergic reaction to medication
• Heavy bleeding
• Blood clots in the lungs or legs
• Scar pain
A hysterectomy also carries its own risks, including early menopause when the ovaries are removed. Injury to neighboring organs such as the intestine, bladder or rectum; and hysterectomy pain.
Hysterectomy pain can develop in the entire pelvic and abdominal area and even in the lower back. Hysterectomy pain is caused by adhesions or scar tissue that naturally and quickly forms on sensitive pelvic tissue that is cut or burned during surgery.
The adhesions act like glue threads to hold the injured tissue together. Sometimes adhesions connect the incision sites to nearby organs such as the intestine or bladder. This bond can lead to tension or painful tension in the body.
How are hysterectomy pain treated?
Medications are the first treatment for pain due to a hysterectomy. If the pain is severe and chronic, additional surgery can be done to remove the painful adhesion. However, even with the most advanced surgical techniques, new adhesion form. This often leads to a trading / bond formation / trading cycle that can take years.