Hysterectomy is the operation to remove the uterus. There are different types of hysterectomy operations:
- Total hysterectomy – uterus and cervix are removed. The ovaries are usually left, but if they are removed, this is called a bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy (BSO).
- Subtotal hysterectomy – uterus is removed but the cervix is left.
- Radical hysterectomy (also called Wertheim’s hysterectomy) – the whole womb, cervix, fallopian tubes, ovaries, part of the vagina, and lymph glands are removed. This operation is done for cancer.
The womb may be removed either through a cut in the abdomen or through the vagina, which means you will not have a visible scar. Sometimes the hysterectomy is done by using keyhole surgery.
The decision to remove your ovaries depends on the reason for performing a hysterectomy. Removing the ovaries at the time of hysterectomy reduces the risk of ovarian cancer. However, women who have had their ovaries removed have also been found to have an increased risk of developing heart conditions (like angina).
If your ovaries are removed, you may be advised to take hormone replacement treatment (HRT). This is because once your ovaries are removed you will go through the menopause. If your ovaries are not removed, you still have a 1 in 3 chance of going through the menopause within two years of having the hysterectomy.
After the operation, you will be given painkillers for the first few days, both whilst in hospital and also to take home with you. You will be able to eat and drink within a few hours of having the operation. You are likely to have a catheter in for a couple of days or so. It is very common to have some light bleeding from the vagina, which can last for up to six weeks. If you have any stitches then they are usually removed between 5 and 7 days after your operation.
Recovery varies from person to person and is usually faster if you have had the hysterectomy through the vagina. Full recovery commonly takes around 6-8 weeks but it is not unusual for women to take three months until they feel fully back to normal. The time before you can return to work will depend on your job.