There are 600,000 hysterectomies performed each year. You might think that it’s really just a minor surgery. It is not minor by any means. When you take out the uterus, it is the removal of a big piece of the hormonal puzzle. That does not take into consideration that often the ovaries, fallopian tubes, and cervix is taken out as well. If you are going to have the surgery, you need to understand the possible complications. The complications and surgical risks are different depending on the type of hysterectomy performed and the patients history. Women with diabetes, obesity, and heart disease will have higher risk factors. There is a risk of death (1 percent), even though it happens rarely, with hysterectomy surgery. Complications will occur in 11 out of 10,000 women. That percentage does not take into account problems like early menopause and decreased sex drive.
Common Risk Factors: The three most common complications are fever, urinary tract infections, and wound infections. More than 15 percent of women have a fever over 100 degrees. Urinary infections are experienced by over 10 percent of women because of catheter placement during surgery.
Infection: You may develop an infection at the site of the surgery or a systemic infection such as staph. That can happen with any surgical procedure. There are other infections that can occur as well, including a vaginal or pelvic abscess, blood poisoning, pneumonia, and inflammation of different tissues. It is a wise idea to boost up your immune system before any operation including a hysterectomy. Infections may require antibiotics in most cases. You may heal slower if you are diabetic. You may experience changes in the vagina and a heavy discharge.
Problems with Many Hysterectomies:
Early Menopause: Surgical menopause happens when the ovaries are removed during the hysterectomy surgery. This can even occur in some women even when they are left in. When you remove female organs that are part of a woman’s complicated hormonal system, you will see hormonal changes. Menopause symptoms include hot flashes, depression, mood fluctuations, and other problems.
Lack Of Libido: Twenty percent of women suffer from reduced sex drive after a hysterectomy. This goes up to 46 percent when a oophorectomy (ovariectomy) is performed. This is when they remove the ovaries, as well as the uterus. The hormone, testosterone, is produced in the ovaries. Testosterone is an important hormone for sexual drive. Most women do not understand that their body produces several important hormones, with testosterone being one of them. There is so much conversation on estrogen and not enough on testosterone deficiency in women.
Pain During Intercourse: If a portion of the vagina was removed, this may take a long time to heal. This can be a permanent complication. It usually lessens with time.
Less Common Complications:
Blood Loss: In 10 percent of the surgeries, a blood transfusion may be necessary. This may be due to a blood vessel damaged during surgery. This can happen during the recovery as well, if you accidentally pull the surgical stitches out by doing too much.
Internal Organ Damage: This means that during the procedure that a organ or tissue is damaged. This can occur with any surgery, no matter how common or complicated. A surgeon can accidentally create a laceration with his instrument, or during the use of a electrosurgical procedure. This will then require surgery to repair the problem. Problems can occur both during the operation and in the recovery period afterward. If you have severe bleeding after the operation, they may have to reopen the area to repair bladder, bowel, or urethral injuries. This only happens in 1 percent of patients. Urinary complications occur in about 3 percent of patients.
Scar Tissue Formation: After any kind of pelvic or stomach surgery, you may have scar tissue problems. Scar tissue can cause stomach or pelvic pain and intestinal blockage. In some cases you may have to undergo surgery to remove that scar tissue. The percentages are low (2 percent) for this complication.
Hernia: This is a rupture in the wall of the stomach. There is no stats on how often this happens.
Damage to the Ureter: In 1 per cent of the operations, the ureter is damaged by rupture, laceration, or compression. This complication is mainly with surgery performed into the stomach rather than surgery through the vagina.
Vaginal Prolapse: This can happen after the uterus is removed if they don’t secure the vaginal tissue adequately. It means your vagina falls out literally. This needs surgery to repair it.
Blood Clots: Always a problem with any surgery. You are taking out a lot of organ tissue during this operation, so clots do occur. Death from a clot is rare. If you have had blood clots or have a history of blood clots in your legs, as I do, it is a serious reality.
Fallopian Tube Prolapse: This is rare but the symptoms would be a watery discharge, spotting, and possible stomach or pelvic pain.
Recovery Period: You will be in the hospital from one to three days. If you have children and are a single mom, you need to arrange for help. Abdominal surgery takes at least 6 weeks for full recovery without complications. Add two to four weeks more with complications. Full healing on the average takes 8 weeks. You are not allowed to lift over 10 pounds for that eight weeks. Keep that in mind if are an independent contractor and there is no insurance coverage. One of the reasons I chose not to have surgery is because I could not afford to be out of work that long without pay. Even with insurance, you may need help at home with the children for a few days. It is amazing how many chores at home require the lifting of over 10 pounds including trash cans, housework, carrying in the groceries or dog food, or carrying laundry.
Laparoscopic Surgery is associated with much less down time unless there are complications. You can usually get back to normal activities within two weeks unless you have a job or home chores that require lifting.
In both surgeries you cannot take a both until your stitches heal or swim in a pool. Using a hot tub is also out.