(Surgical Removal of the Uterus [or Womb]; Abdominal Hysterectomy)
Hysterectomy is the surgical term for the removal of the uterus (womb). This results in the inability to become pregnant.
There are different types of surgeries, such as:
- Supracervical hysterectomy—removal of the uterus only
- Total hysterectomy—removal of the uterus and cervix (the opening of the uterus leading to the vagina)
- Radical hysterectomy—removal of the uterus, ovaries, fallopian tubes, upper part of the vagina, and the pelvic lymph nodes
- Salpingo-oophorectomy —removal of the ovaries and fallopian tubes (may be combined with any of the above procedures)
Reasons for Procedure
You may have a hysterectomy if your uterus is causing health problems that cannot be treated by other means. Some reasons a woman may have a hysterectomy are to:
- Treat cancers such as uterine, endometrial, and ovarian cancers
- Remove uterine fibroids
- Treat chronic pelvic pain
- Treat heavy bleeding
Explore your options before having a hysterectomy. There are other treatments for many of these problems.
If you are planning to have hysterectomy, your doctor will review a list of possible complications, which may include:
- Reactions to anesthesia
- Injured pelvic organs—bowel and/or bladder
- Urinary incontinence —problems controlling your urine
- Loss of ovarian function and early menopause
- Sexual dysfunction
Before your procedure, talk to your doctor about ways to manage factors that may increase your risk of complications such as:
- Chronic disease such as diabetes or obesity
The following may also increase the risk of complications:
- Previous pelvic surgery or serious infection
- Use of certain medications
What to Expect
Prior to Procedure
Your doctor may do the following:
- Blood and urine tests
- Pap smear
- X-ray of abdomen and kidneys—a test that uses radiation to take a picture of structures inside the body
- Pelvic ultrasound —a test that uses sound waves to show organs in the abdomen
- Dilation and curettage (D&C)—surgical removal of tissue from the lining of the uterus
You should do the following:
- Talk to your doctor about your medications. You may be asked to stop taking some medications up to 1 week before the procedure.
- Arrange for a ride home and for help at home.
- Eat a light meal the night before the surgery. Do not eat or drink anything after midnight.
General anesthesia will be used. You will be asleep during the surgery.
Description of the Procedure
You may be given antibiotics just before your surgery.
Laparoscopic procedures are minimally invasive. This means that small incisions are made, rather than the large incisions that are used during open surgery.
Laparoscopic-Assisted Vaginal Hysterectomy
Similar to the above surgery, small incisions will be made in the abdominal area and tools will be inserted. Incisions will be made in the vagina to help detach the lower portion of the cervix and the uterus. The cervix and uterus will then be removed through the vaginal opening.
A hysterectomy can also be done using robotic technology. Like the laparoscopic procedures, tools are placed through small incisions in the abdominal area. The doctor, though, sits at a console and views the organs via a monitor that displays a 3D image. The surgery is done using a joystick-like device to control the tools.
Will It Hurt?
You will not have pain during the surgery because of the anesthesia. During your recovery time, you will be given pain medication.
Average Hospital Stay
You may be able to leave the hospital on the same day or the next day. You will stay longer if you have complications.
At the Hospital
While you are recovering at the hospital, you may receive the following care:
- On the first night, the nurse will help you sit up and walk.
- During the next morning, the IV will be removed if you are eating and drinking well.
- You may need to wear special stockings or boots to help prevent blood clots.
- You may have a Foley catheter for a short time to help you urinate.
During your stay, the hospital staff will take steps to reduce your chance of infection such as:
- Washing their hands
- Wearing gloves or masks
- Keeping your incisions covered
There are also steps you can take to reduce your chances of infection such as:
- Washing your hands often and reminding visitors and healthcare providers to do the same
- Reminding your healthcare providers to wear gloves or masks
- Not allowing others to touch your incisions
When at home, take these steps to care for yourself:
- Eat a diet rich in fruits and vegetables .
- Ask your doctor if you should do Kegel exercises to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles.
Note: If the doctor has not removed your cervix, you will need to continue to have Pap smears to check for cervical cancer.
Call Your Doctor
After you leave the hospital, contact your doctor if any of the following occurs:
- Signs of infection, including fever and chills
- Redness, swelling, increasing pain, excessive bleeding, leakage, or any discharge from the incision sites
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- Cough, shortness of breath, or chest pain
- Heavy bleeding
- Pain that you cannot control with the medications you have been given
- Pain, burning, urgency or frequency of urination, or persistent bleeding in the urine
- Swelling, redness, or pain in your leg
In case of an emergency, call for emergency medical services right away.
The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians
Canadian Medical Association
Hysterectomy. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists website. Available at: http://www.acog.org/~/media/For%20Patients/faq008.pdf?dmc=1&ts=20120815T1040007858. Published March 2015. Accessed October 7, 2015.
Hysterectomy. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated August 18, 2015. Accessed October 7, 2015.
The treatment: robot-assisted laparoscopic hysterectomy. UC Davis Health System website. Available at: http://www.ucdmc.ucdavis.edu/obgyn/specialties/robotic_surgery/hysterectomy.html. Accessed October 7, 2015.
Last reviewed September 2015 by Andrea Chisholm, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.