Since the majority of a woman’s reproductive organs are internal, treating any problems that arise with them may require more invasive action than it does with men whose organs are mostly external. Special testing methods have to be used to make the correct diagnosis, and it can often take years to get the correct final diagnosis and treatments because many people often miss hidden cysts, fibroids, and slow-growing cancerous tumors.
Because of this, it is crucial that women understand some of the possible symptoms of reproductive health problems that can arise and all of the correct treatments their doctors should be telling them about. This article will discuss one specific treatment that is done called a “partial hysterectomy” because it is used the more often than the other surgical methods that are available today.
What Is a Partial Hysterectomy?
Actually, in medical terms a partial hysterectomy actually refers to removing the upper part of the uterus but leaving the cervix in place. Most of the time the term “partial” is actually used incorrectly. This article will clear up the misconceptions.
So then, how is a partial hysterectomy different than a full hysterectomy? A full hysterectomy is a procedure where the surgeon removes the entire uterus which includes the “womb” or upper portion and the cervix, which is the lower portion.
For clarification, many people think that full hysterectomy means removal of the ovaries and tubes, but that a partial hysterectomy only means removing the uterus. This common misconception creates some confusion. The ovaries and tubes are not removed unless they are specifically listed separately on the surgery title. In medical terms that is called a Bilateral Salpingo-ophorectomy, (BSO). To be honest, in most cases women do not need to have their ovaries and tubes removed automatically.
A hysterectomy is often considered to be a better alternative to a hysterectomy and BSO because the remaining ovaries help ensure that a woman can still have her natural progesterone and estrogen released. With a hysterectomy and BSO, a woman goes into menopause immediately.
This is problematic because it puts the body in a state of shock. Usually, a woman makes the transition into menopause gradually. So the sudden surgical removal of progesterone and estrogen can have a serious impact on her emotionally and physically.
A full hysterectomy is a procedure where a surgeon remove a woman’s entire uterus. Then, the top of the vagina, where the cervix used to be attached is closed with absorbable sutures.
Even though this is done very often, it is a complicated procedure to have done because there are tendons and arteries that have to be separated to get the organs out of the body. If the surgery isn’t performed properly, complications can occur such as infection, damage to surrounding organs or life-threatening internal bleeding can happen.
A partial hysterectomy is different than a full hysterectomy because only the upper part of the uterus is removed. Since the vagina is not cut open and the cervix, ligaments, and blood vessels stay at the top of the vagina the uterus has to be taken out through an incision in the abdomen. The size of that incision varies from 1 centimeter to 6 inches depending on the type of surgery; laparoscopic, robotic, or abdominal.
Who Needs a Partial Hysterectomy?
The decision to remove any organs from the body isn’t one that should ever be taken lightly because of the potential risks that it has on a woman’s health. So once a doctor begins to recommend a woman to have a procedure like this one done, it is should be because there are no other treatment options in her specific situation that are better for her. When a hysterectomy is the best option, many women are extremely happy after the surgery and feel like they got “their normal life back” from before the symptoms began. The most common conditions that this surgical procedure is used to treat are heavy bleeding, painful cramps, fibroids, cancer, and endometriosis.
How Can a Partial Hysterectomy Relieve Symptoms?
A partial hysterectomy helps relieve symptoms by taking out the affected organs where the problems lie. So if it is used to treat a woman with fibroids, she will no longer have cramps, heavy bleeding, or fibroids. Fibroids develop inside the uterus. They cause excessively heavy periods and pain in women who get them. Even though fibroids can be easily removed, there is a good chance they will come back, so women who are done having children frequently prefer that the uterus and fibroids are taken out instead of just the fibroids. The ovaries and cervix are not affected by fibroids, so they are left in place.
However, if a woman has developed cancer in one of her reproductive organs, an adjacent organ may need to be taken out. Cancer of the cervix requires the complete removal of the uterus and cervix. If it hasn’t spread to the ovaries, then they might be left in place. But sometimes, and depending on the age of the patient, doctors will take them out as a precaution to ensure that cancer doesn’t spread any further.
Risks Involving a Partial Hysterectomy
Like all types of surgery, there are some possible risks to having this procedure done. The frequency and severity of the risks below depend on the route of hysterectomy; abdominal, vaginal, laparoscopic, robotic. In general, some of them include:
- Incision pain that lasts for several weeks.
- Potentially slightly higher long term risk of pelvic prolapse.
- Possibly a mild change in the sensation of orgasm
- Chance of infection post operatively
- Risks of bleeding
Recovering from a Partial Hysterectomy
If you have an abdominal hysterectomy it takes several weeks after having this procedure to be able to return to normal activities. Women who have small children will not be able to carry or lift them because this could tear open the stitches that they have. Fortunately, the other types of hysterectomies, like robotic, laparoscopic, and vaginal, have a much faster recovery period, less pain, and get you back to your life faster. The honest truth that your doctor might hide from you is that abdominal hysterectomies are an ancient procedure and rarely need to be done any longer.
And with a full hysterectomy, sexual intercourse isn’t possible for six weeks because it would increase the risk of internal damage being done because of the pressure sex puts on the sutures at the top of the vagina. An advantage of a partial hysterectomy is that there is no cutting or sutures inside the vagina, so a woman could have sex much sooner afterward, as early as two weeks. However, many women report that they didn’t feel like trying sexual intercourse until three or four weeks.
Most doctors also ask women to take some time off of work, so they can get the rest that they need to be able to heal faster. The amount of time off of work depends on the route of the partial hysterectomy and is shortest with a robotic or laparoscopic partial hysterectomy. Many women go back as early as one week afterwards, but they still can have up to six weeks off since that is currently the national standard. This extra time is frequently used for rest and relaxation by many women who plan a vacation during the recovery period.
After a partial hysterectomy, only a very small percentage of patients, <5%, who still have their ovaries will have a slight amount of monthly spotting. Usually the amount is so small that the women report they notice it only when wiping. If the cervix is removed, spotting won’t be possible. However, normal premenstrual symptoms continue since they come from the ovaries. So if a woman usually has breast tenderness and bloating each month, these things will continue.
Summing It Up
In conclusion, a partial hysterectomy is a serious surgical procedure that is done to alleviate problems with the reproductive organs in a woman. It is extremely helpful in ending problems that cause excessive bleeding, cramping, and pain. It has a quicker recovery than a full hysterectomy since there is less tissue removed.
Women who have a partial hysterectomy have usually suffered for years with menstrual problems though, so they feel much better once that finally have it done. Women who are considering this procedure should be sure to talk to their gynecologist to determine if it is something that they need.