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A vulvectomy is done to remove the vulva or parts of it. The vulva is made up of the genital structures located on the outside of a female’s body. These structures are the clitoris, labia majora, and labia minora.
Do a physical exam and review your medical history
Perform blood and imaging tests
Talk to you about any medications, herbs, and dietary supplements you may be taking—You may be asked to stop taking some medications up to one week before the procedure, like:
or other anti-inflammatory drugs
Blood thinners (such as warfarin,
Before the surgery:
Arrange for a ride to and from the hospital.
The night before surgery, do not eat or drink after midnight.
will be used. It will block any pain and keep you asleep through the surgery.
Description of the Procedure
A nurse will insert an IV into your arm. This will deliver antibiotics. Your pubic hair will be removed. The nurse will also insert a catheter to drain urine from your bladder.
There are several types of vulvectomy surgery. The type you will have depends on what parts of the vulva and nearby tissue have been affected by cancer or abnormal skin. Examples include:
Skinning vulvectomy—removes the top layer of skin
Simple vulvectomy—removes multiple layers of skin and tissue
Partial vulvectomy—removes a part of the vulva, as well as some nearby tissue and lymph nodes
Radical vulvectomy—removes the entire vulva, including nearby tissue and lymph nodes
Once all affected areas have been removed, the doctor may need to reconstruct the vulva. If only a small amount of skin was removed, the remaining skin may be able to be stitched together. Sometimes, a
is needed. Temporary drains may be inserted to remove extra fluids from the incision area.
How Long Will It Take?
About 1-2 hours
How Much Will It Hurt?
Anesthesia prevents pain during surgery. Your doctor will give you pain medication after surgery.
Average Hospital Stay
The hospital stay depends on the type of surgery. You may go home the same day or up to a few days after. If you had any problems, you will need to stay longer.
At the Hospital
While in the hospital, you may be asked to:
Begin drinking clear fluids. You will slowly progress to solid food.
Do breathing exercises to help prevent chest infections.
Get up and walk to relieve gas and prevent blood clots.
The catheter and drains may be removed within a week.
During your stay, the hospital staff will take steps to reduce your chance of infection such as:
Washing their hands
Wearing gloves or masks
Keeping your incisions covered
There are also steps you can take to reduce your chances of infection such as:
Washing your hands often and reminding visitors and healthcare providers to do the same
Reminding your healthcare providers to wear gloves or masks
Not allowing others to touch your incisions
When you return home, you may be asked to do the following:
If you have a dressing, follow instructions for changing and removing it.
Keep your legs apart.
After a bowel movement, wipe yourself from front to back.
Take a sitz bath three times a day and after a bowel movement—A sitz bath is soaking the hip and buttocks area in warm water. You can buy a plastic sitz bath at most drugstores. You can also use your bathtub.
Clean the area with natural soap (such as glycerin) or plain warm water.
Keep the vulvar area dry. Dry yourself with a clean towel or use a hair dryer at a low setting.
Wear loose clothing and cotton underwear.
Avoid wearing pantyhose or girdles.
Move your legs while you are in bed to prevent blood clots.
Your doctor will let you know when you can have sex again.
Follow your doctor’s instructions.
Ask your doctor about when it is safe to shower, bathe, or soak in water.
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This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.