Every year in the United States, nearly half a million women have part or all of their uterus removed via hysterectomy, the second most common women’s surgery after cesarean childbirth. Hysterectomy surgery is so common, in fact, that about one in three women can expect to have one by their 60th birthday.
A hysterectomy is the go-to surgical solution for a range of serious gynecological problems, including those that haven’t responded to more conservative treatment measures. Having a full or partial hysterectomy can help resolve severe uterine fibroids, eliminate cervical cancer, put an end to persistent endometriosis pain, or address major uterine prolapse.
While it can be a bit stressful to find out that surgery is the best treatment option for your gynecological condition, you don’t need to worry too much — advanced laparoscopic surgical techniques have made the procedure quicker, safer, far less invasive, and easier to recover from than ever before.
Let’s explore what makes a laparoscopic hysterectomy different from a conventional open hysterectomy, and what kind of benefits this groundbreaking surgical method has to offer.
Hysterectomy surgery removes part or all of your uterus — and in some cases, surrounding tissues and structures as well — to treat a serious or advanced gynecological condition.
Although a hysterectomy is most commonly used to resolve chronic pelvic pain and abnormal bleeding caused by persistent uterine fibroids, it’s also one of the most effective ways to treat gynecological cancer, uterine prolapse, and long-standing endometriosis symptoms.
The three basic types of hysterectomy are:
As the most common type of hysterectomy surgery, this procedure removes your entire uterus as well as your cervix. If recommended, a total hysterectomy may also remove your fallopian tubes, ovaries, or both.
Also known as a supracervical hysterectomy, this type of surgery removes just the upper part of your uterus, leaving the lower part, or cervix, in place.
This procedure, which is often reserved for cases of severe gynecological cancer, removes your entire uterus along with your cervix. It also removes the tissues that surround your cervix, the upper part of your vagina, and, when necessary, your fallopian tubes and ovaries.
Carried out via conventional open abdominal surgery, a traditional hysterectomy uses a single incision along your bikini line to give your surgeon an unobstructed view of your uterus, cervix, fallopian tubes, ovaries, and other pelvic organs.
Depending on your body size and the nature of your hysterectomy, your incision may be as short as 6 inches or as long as 12 inches. It’s closed with stitches or surgical staples once the procedure is complete. Because a traditional hysterectomy is considered major surgery, it requires a short hospital stay (typically 3-5 days).
It takes 6-8 weeks to recover fully from a traditional hysterectomy, partly due to the fact that the longer incision used in a traditional open surgery passes through several layers of tissue.
The more invasive nature of this technique also comes with an increased risk of complication, including excessive bleeding, infection, and unintentional nerve and tissue damage.
For many years, the only less invasive alternative to a traditional hysterectomy was a vaginal hysterectomy, a procedure that removes your uterus through an incision deep within your vagina.
But even though a vaginal hysterectomy typically involves a shorter hospital stay and shorter recovery time, it isn’t a viable option if the uterus is enlarged or bound by scar tissue.
Luckily, ongoing advancements in minimally invasive surgical techniques have made it possible to perform most hysterectomies laparoscopically, or through small incisions and with help from a high-definition camera and small-scale, specialized surgical instruments.
Instead of using a single long incision, a laparoscopic hysterectomy uses 3-4 quarter-inch incisions: One near your navel, one over your pubic bone, and one on each side (or just one side) of your pelvis.
To achieve optimal visual assistance during a laparoscopic hysterectomy, we insert a tiny camera through one of the incisions. By relaying a magnified, high-resolution, 3D view of your uterus, cervix, and other pelvic structures to a high-definition monitor in real time, this special camera allows us to perform a hysterectomy with an exceptionally high degree of precision.
As a minimally invasive technique, laparoscopic surgery is associated with substantially less physical trauma — and a much easier recovery process — than traditional open surgery.
With an average hospital stay of just one day, a laparoscopic hysterectomy can feel more like an outpatient procedure than major surgery. Even better, you can expect a full recovery in just two short weeks, rather than two long months.
If you’ve been told you need a total or partial hysterectomy, laparoscopic surgery may be more than a just viable option — it may be your best option.
If you’d like to find out more about the benefits of having a laparoscopic hysterectomy or simply learn more about the techniques used in hysterectomy surgery, we can help. Call our Boise, Idaho, office today to schedule your appointment with Dr. Weyhrich.