What Is It?
A hysterectomy is the surgical removal of the uterus. Depending on the type of hysterectomy, other pelvic organs or tissues also may be removed. The types of hysterectomy include:
Hysterectomies can be done with different types of surgical incisions (surgical cuts). Until recently most hysterectomies were abdominal hysterectomies, in which the uterus is removed through a horizontal or vertical incision in the lower abdomen.
Now about 50% of hysterectomies are done using a laparoscope, a telescope-like instrument with a camera for viewing inside the abdomen. The surgeon makes several small incisions in the abdomen that allow the insertion of instruments to help remove the uterine attachments. Once freed from its attachments, the uterus can be removed either through the vagina (laparoscopic assisted vaginal hysterectomy) or in pieces through the small abdominal incisions (total laparoscopic hysterectomy). As laparoscopic techniques continue to improve, the number of hysterectomies done by this approach will increase.
Vaginal hysterectomies, in which the uterus is removed through an incision in the vagina, are done about 20% of the time. When considered equally safe, most experts prefer the vaginal approach rather than a traditional abdominal hysterectomy.
Hysterectomy is a very common surgical procedure in the United States, especially in middle-aged women between 40 and 50. About one out of every three women in the United States eventually has a hysterectomy.
Page 1 of 9 Next Page: Hysterectomy What It's Used For
From Health A-Z, Harvard Health Publications. Copyright 2007 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. All rights reserved. Written permission is required to reproduce, in any manner, in whole or in part, the material contained herein. To make a reprint request, contact Harvard Health Publications. Used with permission of StayWell.
You can find more great health information on the Harvard Health Publications website.