A hysterectomy -- the removal of the uterus -- is a very common type of surgery performed on women. There are three types of hysterectomy surgery, including vaginal hysterectomies, laparoscopic surgery and abdominal hysterectomy.
Hysterectomies are performed for a variety of reasons. They may be indicated for a woman who has chronic vaginal bleeding or endometriosis, which is excess uterine tissue. Some types of gynecological cancers, such as ovarian and uterine cancer, may require a hysterectomy. Benign tumors in the uterus, known as fibroids, also are a cause of a hysterectomy.
During an abdominal hysterectomy, an incision is made in the lower abdomen and the uterus is removed. There are two types of incisions which can be made during the surgery, including a vertical incision or a horizontal incision. A vertical incision extends from just below the navel to the top of the pelvic bone. The horizontal incision is made slightly above the pelvic bone. The surgeon decides which type of incision is needed depending on individual circumstances.
Although this type of hysterectomy is more invasive than the other types, it may be needed in some cases. For instance, it may be recommended if other pelvic organs need to be removed or checked for disease. It is also done if large uterine fibroids need to be removed and would be difficult to remove through a vaginal or laparoscopic procedure.
An abdominal hysterectomy is considered a routine procedure and generally safe. However, in any type of surgery there are risks. General anesthesia is used during the surgery. A small percentage of people have an adverse reaction to anesthesia. There is also a risk of excess bleeding or blot clots developing during, or after surgery.
Occasionally other complications occur, such as injuries to nearby organs, including the bladder. An infection can occur at the incision site or in the pelvic cavity. Most complications are rare and treatable.
The average hospital stay for an uncomplicated abdominal hysterectomy is about three days. A woman may experience pain in the incision site for a few weeks after the surgery. Usually there will be vaginal bleeding after the surgery, ranging from a few days to a week.
A woman can expect some changes after an abdominal hysterectomy. After the surgery, a woman will likely be advised to take it easy for a few weeks. A doctor may advise against heavy lifting, vigorous exercise and sexual intercourse for a month to six weeks. Because the uterus was removed, a woman will no longer have monthly menstrual bleeding.