A partial hysterectomy is a very common surgery that involves removing a section of a woman's uterus. Hysterectomies are performed to prevent or treat a number of different health problems, including uterine fibroids, cancerous tumors, dysplasia, and endometriosis. The procedure is usually performed on an inpatient basis, requiring a woman to stay in the hospital for one to three days so doctors can monitor recovery. Thanks to modern technology and skilled surgeons, the success rate is nearly 100 percent, and patients are usually able to experience full recoveries in a matter of weeks.
Before considering a partial hysterectomy, a patient's doctor typically tries to treat her condition with medications and minimally invasive procedures. Partial hysterectomies are typically reserved for conditions that are confined to the uterus and do not respond to conservative treatment measures. If the ovaries, fallopian tubes, cervix, or other structures show signs of disease or cancer, a total hysterectomy may be required to remove them as well.
There are several different approaches that a surgeon can take to remove part of the uterus. Based on the surgeon's experience and the patient's specific condition, a partial hysterectomy by be performed through an abdominal incision or the vaginal opening. Procedures are usually performed in hospital operating rooms under general anesthesia, and take less than three hours to complete.
During an abdominal partial hysterectomy, the surgeon first makes a long cut across the lower abdomen and uses surgical instruments to hold the cavity open. He or she carefully identifies the upper section of the uterus and severs it from the cervix and surrounding structures. With the section removed, the surgeon can reattach internal structures, administer pressure and medication to control bleeding, and close incisions with stitches or glues. The abdominal cut is treated with antibiotics, stitched, and covered with a bandage.
Some abdominal hysterectomies can be performed without leaving a large, permanent scar. Instead, the surgeon can make many small incisions and manipulate precision instruments and cameras to cut away the uterus internally. Called a laparoscopic procedure, the surgery is often preferred when very small, easily identifiable polyps or tumors need to be removed.
Another option for a partial hysterectomy involves excising part of the uterus through the vagina. As with the laparoscopic procedure, the surgeon relies on a camera feed and tiny instruments to locate and remove tissue. Vaginal procedures are generally considered safer than abdominal surgeries, though they may not be possible if swelling or bleeding impair the surgeon's ability to locate problem areas.
Following any type of partial hysterectomy, a patient can expect to stay in the hospital for up to three days. She receives pain medications and fluids to aid in recovery, and a doctor periodically checks to ensure that tissue is healing appropriately. After leaving the hospital, a woman usually needs to attend regular checkups and take medications for several weeks. Full recovery after a successful hysterectomy is possible in as little as one month.