Many women with uterine fibroids, abnormal vaginal bleeding and endometriosis are recommended to have hysterectomy, or if they have typical pre-menopausal syndromes, such as weight gain, memory, tender breasts – the same answer. Wait a minute! Ask if there is some other solution, and there is! This is mainly because hysterectomy, even though being routine surgery, can have serious side effects.
Definition of hysterectomy
Before discussing hysterectomy side effects, let's explain what hysterectomy is. A hysterectomy is the second most common surgery among women in the United States: each year, more than 600,000 are done, which leads to conclusion that one in three women in the United States has had a hysterectomy by age 60. A hysterectomy is an operation to remove a woman's uterus (womb), where where a baby grows when a woman is pregnant. In some cases, the ovaries and fallopian tubes also are removed.
There are several (three types) of hysterectomies:
- Total or complete hysterectomy: most common type of hysterectomy, where cervix and uterus are removed
- Subtotal or partial hysterectomy: only the upper part of the uterus is removed; cervix is left in place
- Radical hysterectomy: This hysterectomy is done in some cases of cancer, and as its name states it is the most radical. In radical hysterectomy uterus, cervix, the upper part of the vagina, and supporting tissues are removed.
There are also three types of surgical approaches to hysterectomies:
- Laparoscopic - assisted vaginal hysterectomy
Hysterectomy side effects
Hysterectomy side effects depend on a number of things: that includes your age, condition, type of hysterectomy you have and whether you are still having periods. If you were still having periods before surgery, they will stop after the operation, so the side effect of hysterectomy will be surgically-induced menopause.
Side effects depend on the type of of hysterectomy. That means if ovaries are not removed, woman will continue to have hormone changes like she did with her periods, but she will not bleed. But if her ovaries are removed, than she will go through changes like menopause which also includes the side effects. Or in other words: for woman who is premenopausal, having a complete hysterectomy will result in changes in hormonal balance because the ovaries are no longer able to provide any hormone production, while with partial hysterectomy we would expect different side effect, but there is not much difference. Even after having partial hysterectomy, hysterectomy can result in hormone imbalance. This is because the hormone functions of the ovaries will decline in period of one to two years due to reduced circulation.
Side effects of hysterectomy also depend on the type of surgical approach to hysterectomy. Abdominal hysterectomy is the most common surgical procedure, and is done through the incision in the abdomen, and then detaching the uterus from the ligaments that support it and the blood vessels that supply it: in short vagina is 'peeled' from the cervix. If surgeon doesn't pay enough attention to details, another side effect could be shorter vagina, which would make sex very uncomfortable. Abdominal hysterectomy has several other side effects: bleeding, bowel injury, injury to the ureter, adhesions to other organs, bladder injury.
Vaginal hysterectomy is done through the vagina, where four ligaments supporting the uterus are cut, sutured, and then the uterus is taken out through the vagina. Side effect of vaginal hysterectomy could be: bladder injuries, fever, infection, some adhesions.
Third surgical approach is laparoscopic and is relatively new. It is not appropriate for all hysterectomies, especially if having cancer of the uterus or ovaries. Laparoscopy is done in many other fields, that involve abdomen and surrounding organs: a small abdominal incision is done to insert the laparoscope. Since this method is relatively new, there are no statistical data that would provide us with information on complications and hysterectomy side effects. Possible hysterectomy side effects after laparoscopy could be hemorrhage, because sometimes the arteries do not get properly secured during this procedure.
Other side effects that can happen during or right after surgery include:
Effects of anesthesia: this effect is possible and usually happens after every surgery. Few more days after the surgery patient feels tired and weak. It is possible to feel a little sick to your stomach (nausea) after anesthesia. It is also possible to feel pain in chest and around your collar bone, especially when moving from lying to sitting position. Side effects of anesthesia are present three to five days after the surgery.
Infections: As with any other type of surgery, there is always a risk of infection. If infection occurs, doctor must give you medicine to treat it.
Too much bleeding: Possibility of that you might bleed too much during an operation and need a transfusion is always present during surgeries. It would be wise to ask your doctor if you should donate some of your own blood before the operation.
Damage to nearby organs: During surgery damage to organs near uterus is possible, of course that doesn't mean it will happen to you. You should ask your doctor what might happen if an organ is damaged.
Possible side effects that you may experience following hysterectomy
- Pain in the joints
- Hot flashes
- Memory lapses
- Weight gain
- Urinary problems
- Heart palpitations
- Heart disease
- Low sex drive
- Painful sexual intercourse
- Vaginal dryness
- Hair loss
Read More: Endometriosis & Hysterectomy
In this article we are not trying to appeal that you shouldn't have hysterectomy! Not at all! This is up to you and your doctor to decide. All we are trying to recommend is that you and your doctor think whether some other options besides hysterectomy are available.