Facts about partial and total hysterectomy procedures

A hysterectomy is the surgical removal of a woman's uterus. The procedure is performed for a variety of reasons: to treat uterine, cervical or ovarian cancer and severe cases of endometriosis, to correct systemic trauma resulting from a complicated pregnancy or birth, and as a means of ensuring permanent female birth control. A partial hysterectomy (or, more rarely, a total hysterectomy) may also be prescribed as a treatment for uterine fibroids.

Both partial and total hysterectomies will render the patient unable to become pregnant, so it is usually considered a last-resort treatment. In addition, hysterectomy side effects are considerable: apart from the risks inherent to any form of surgery, including internal bleeding, infection and the possibility of adverse reactions to anesthetics, hysterectomies also wreak havoc on the patient's hormones, which can cause physical, psychological and emotional complications.

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Types of Hysterectomy

While lay people use the terms total hysterectomy and partial hysterectomy, the medical community is more precise about the types of procedures performed. They classify hysterectomies in three different ways:

For many women, intercourse after a hysterectomy is a point of concern. Many patients believe that a partial hysterectomy, in which they retain the cervix, is the key to continuing to enjoy sex after the procedure. However, studies have shown that any sexual dissatisfaction following a total or radical hysterectomy is anecdotal, and that all clinical measures of sexual function point to unimpeded capability.

In addition to altered hormone levels, clinically significant hysterectomy side effects include premature menopause, urinary incontinence, vaginal prolapse and, in partial hysterectomies that leave the ovaries intact, ovarian failure. Patient risk for all of these conditions is elevated, though none of them may occur.

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