(Surgical Removal of the Uterus [or Womb]; Abdominal Hysterectomy; Vaginal Hysterectomy)
by Editorial Staff and Contributors
Click here to view an animated version of this procedure.
Hysterectomy is the surgical term for the removal of the uterus (womb). This results in the inability to become pregnant.
There are different types of surgeries, such as:
Reasons for Procedure TOP
A hysterectomy may be done if the uterus is causing health problems that cannot be treated by other means. Some reasons a woman may have a hysterectomy are to:
Explore your options before having a hysterectomy. There are other treatments for many of these problems.
Possible Complications TOP
If you are planning to have hysterectomy, your doctor will review a list of possible complications, which may include:
Some factors that may increase the risk of complications include:
Be sure to discuss the risks with your doctor before surgery.
What to Expect TOP
Prior to Procedure
Your doctor may do the following:
You should do the following:
General anesthesia is usually used for this surgery. Anesthesia blocks pain and keeps you asleep through the surgery. It is given through an IV in your hand or arm.
Description of the Procedure TOP
You may be given antibiotics just before surgery. There are two different methods that are described here.
Open Abdominal Hysterectomy
An incision will be made in the lower abdomen. This is done to expose the tissue and blood vessels that surround the uterus. The tissue will then be cut. The blood vessels will be tied off. The uterus will be removed. Next, the tissue will be sewn back together and the skin will be closed with stitches or staples. If the cervix is also removed, stitches will be put in the back of the vagina.
Open Vaginal Hysterectomy
This method will not involve any outside incisions. The vagina will be stretched and kept open with special tools. Next, the uterus and cervix will be cut free. The connecting blood vessels will be tied off. The uterus and cervix will be removed through the vagina. Lastly, the top of the vagina will be closed with stitches.
With each procedure, a vaginal packing (sterile gauze) is placed in the vagina. This will be removed after 1-2 days.
Immediately After Procedure TOP
In the recovery room, you will have IV fluids and medications.
How Long Will It Take? TOP
Will It Hurt? TOP
You will not have pain during the surgery because of the anesthesia. During your recovery time, you will be given pain medication.
Average Hospital Stay TOP
Your doctor may choose to keep you longer if you have any complications.
Post-procedure Care TOP
At the Hospital
While you are recovering at the hospital, you may receive the following care:
During the first few days, you may have pain, bloating, vaginal bleeding, and vaginal discharge.
When you return home, do the following to help ensure a smooth recovery:
Recovery from open abdominal hysterectomy usually takes 6-8 weeks.
Call Your Doctor TOP
After you leave the hospital, call your doctor if any of the following occur:
If you think you have an emergency, call for emergency medical services right away.
The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
Women's Health—US Department of Health and Human Services
The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada
Women's Health Matters
Hysterectomy. Women's Health—US Department of Health and Human Services website. Available at:
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Updated July 16, 2012. Accessed October 30, 2014.
Hysterectomy. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists website. Available at:
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Published August 2011. Accessed October 30, 2014.
Last reviewed December 2014 by Andrea Chisholm, MD