Gynecologists perform more than half a million hysterectomies every year, making it the second most common women’s surgery in the United States after Cesarean childbirth. In most cases, hysterectomy surgery is recommended as a final treatment to take care of cancer or a serious gynecological problem that hasn’t responded to more conservative treatment strategies.
For some women, a hysterectomy is the only way to completely resolve abnormal uterine bleeding caused by severe endometriosis or fibroids. For others, the surgery is the best way to treat cancerous or precancerous conditions affecting their reproductive tract. Having a hysterectomy can also be a good solution for women living with uterine prolapse, which occurs when a weak pelvic floor allows the uterus to drop down into the vagina.
No matter what gynecological condition or problem you’re facing, hearing that a hysterectomy is your best treatment option can be a bit frightening. If you’re like most women, you begin to imagine hours of major surgery followed by a painful and lengthy recovery.
Thanks to ongoing advancements in minimally invasive surgery, however, many of today’s hysterectomy procedures can be performed laparoscopically -- through small incisions and with help from a high-definition camera.
Let’s explore what makes a laparoscopic hysterectomy different from traditional open surgery, and what kind of benefits you can expect with this highly advanced technique.
A hysterectomy is the surgical removal of part or all of your uterus — and possibly other nearby structures as well — to treat a serious gynecological medical condition.
A total hysterectomy removes your entire uterus, including the cervix. Depending on the reason it’s being done, a total hysterectomy may also include the removal of your fallopian tubes and ovaries.
A partial (supracervical) hysterectomy removes just the upper part of your uterus, leaving your cervix in place.
A radical hysterectomy, which may be done in certain cases of cervical cancer, removes your entire uterus, cervix, the tissue on both sides of your cervix, the upper part of your vagina, and your fallopian tubes and ovaries.
A conventional abdominal hysterectomy takes 1-2 hours and is performed through traditional open surgery, a time-honored technique that involves a single incision through several layers of tissue in your lower abdomen. This large incision provides your surgeon with a clear view of your uterus and other pelvic organs.
Depending on your size and the extent of your surgical treatment, your incision may be as short as six inches, or up to twice that length. Once the procedure is complete, the incision is closed with stitches or surgical staples.
Because open surgery can cause a significant amount of trauma to the surrounding tissues, it comes with a greater risk of complications, such as bleeding, infection, blood clots, and unintentional nerve and tissue damage. After 3-5 days in the hospital, it takes most women another 6-8 weeks to fully recover from a conventional hysterectomy.
A hysterectomy using advanced laparoscopic techniques uses a series of quarter-inch incisions — typically one near your navel, one over your pubic bone, and one on each side of your pelvis.
During this 2-hour procedure, your surgical team inserts a tiny camera through one of the incisions, which then relays a clear 3D view of your uterus and other pelvic structures to a high-definition monitor. Guided by these images, your surgeon performs the hysterectomy through the other incisions using small, specialized surgical instruments.
Because the camera provides an exceptionally clear, magnified view of your pelvic organs, laparoscopic surgery is more precise — and often yields better treatment outcomes — than traditional open surgery.
As a minimally invasive technique, a laparoscopic hysterectomy also causes less physical trauma and pain. The small incisions can be closed with skin glue instead of traditional sutures, which promotes an easier recovery process, and the lack of extensive tissue trauma means you won’t have to spend days in the hospital.
In fact, with the average post-procedure hospital stay lasting for just one day, a laparoscopic hysterectomy can feel more like an outpatient procedure than major surgery. Even better, it takes just two weeks for most women to recover completely and resume their normal routine after surgery.
For many women who need a total or partial hysterectomy, laparoscopic surgery is not only a feasible option, it’s the best option. The minimally invasive surgical technique isn’t always an option, however. Women who require a radical hysterectomy to treat cancer generally require a conventional hysterectomy, as do women with extremely large fibroids, large ovarian tumors, or severe pelvic adhesions.
If you’d like to learn more about the different techniques used in hysterectomy surgery, our team at Rodeo Drive Women’s Health Center in Beverly Hills can help. Call our office today or use the convenient online form on this website to schedule an appointment any time.