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A hysterectomy is an operation to remove a woman's uterus. A woman may have a hysterectomy for different reasons, including:

Hysterectomy for noncancerous reasons is usually considered only after all other treatment approaches have been tried without success.

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Types of Hysterectomy

Depending on the reason for the hysterectomy, a surgeon may choose to remove all or only part of the uterus. Patients and health care providers sometimes use these terms inexactly, so it is important to clarify if the cervix and/or ovaries are removed:

  • In a supracervial or subtotal hysterectomy, a surgeon removes only the upper part of the uterus, keeping the cervix in place.
  • A total hysterectomy removes the whole uterus and cervix.
  • In a radical hysterectomy, a surgeon removes the whole uterus, tissue on the sides of the uterus, the cervix, and the top part of the vagina. Radical hysterectomy is generally only done when cancer is present.

The ovaries may also be removed -- a procedure called oophorectomy -- or may be left in place.

Surgical Techniques for Hysterectomy

Surgeons use different approaches for hysterectomy, depending on the surgeon’s experience, the reason for the hysterectomy, and a woman's overall health. The hysterectomy technique will partly determine healing time and the kind of scar, if any, that remains after the operation.

There are two approaches to surgery – a traditional or open surgery and surgery using a minimally invasive procedure or MIP.

Open Surgery Hysterectomy

An abdominal hysterectomy is an open surgery. This is the most common approach to hysterectomy, accounting for about 65% of all procedures.

To perform an abdominal hysterectomy, a surgeon makes a 5- to 7-inch incision, either up-and-down or side-to-side, across the belly. The surgeon then removes the uterus through this incision.

On average, a woman spends more than three days in the hospital following an abdominal hysterectomy. There is also, after healing, a visible scar at the location of the incision.

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