An abdominal hysterectomy is a procedure in which the uterus is removed through a cut in the abdomen. The uterus is the muscular organ at the top of the vagina. Babies develop in the uterus, and menstrual blood comes from the uterus. The type of surgery you have to remove the uterus may be one of the following:
Total hysterectomy: Surgery to remove the uterus and the cervix. The ovaries and fallopian tubes may also be removed.
Subtotal hysterectomy: Surgery to remove the top part of the uterus (called the fundus), but the cervix is left in place
Radical hysterectomy: Surgery to remove the uterus with the cervix and the tissue on the sides of the cervix and possibly part of the vagina
Some of the problems that may be treated with a hysterectomy are:
Noncancerous growths in the uterus, called fibroids
Constant heavy bleeding that has not been controlled with other treatments
Abnormal growth of uterine tissue outside the uterus (called endometriosis) that causes pain or bleeding that has not been controlled with other treatments
Chronic pelvic pain
A fallen (sagging) uterus
Cancer of the cervix or the uterus
How is an abdominal hysterectomy done?
Before the procedure:
Your healthcare provider will ask you to sign a consent form for the abdominal hysterectomy. The consent form will state the reason you are having the procedure, what happens during the procedure, and what you may expect afterward.
Tell your healthcare provider if you are allergic to any medicines.
Tell your healthcare provider if you are taking any medicines, including nonprescription drugs, herbal remedies, or illegal drugs (if any).
You will have a small tube (IV catheter) inserted into a vein in your hand or arm. This will allow medicine to be given directly into your blood and to give you fluids, if needed.
During the procedure:
You will be given medicines to prevent pain during your surgery. These may include:
Regional anesthesia: Numbs the lower half of your body while you remain awake
General anesthesia: Relaxes your muscles and puts you to sleep. A breathing tube is usually put in your throat when you have general anesthesia.
You may have a small tube (catheter) placed into your bladder through the urethra (the opening from the bladder to the outside of the body) to drain and measure urine from the bladder.
Your surgeon will determine the best surgery for you. Depending on the reason you need the hysterectomy, your provider may perform:
Abdominal hysterectomy: Surgery to remove the uterus through a large cut (incision) on the lower abdomen
Laparoscopic hysterectomy: Surgery to remove the uterus through several small cuts in the lower abdomen. A thin tube with a light and tiny camera called a laparoscope is placed through one of the cuts to help your provider see the uterus.
Lymphectomy: Surgery to remove lymph nodes near the uterus if you have cancer to check if the cancer has already spread
The top of the vagina is stitched closed so that a hole into the abdomen is not left open.
After the procedure:
You will be checked often by nursing staff.
Your blood oxygen level will be monitored by a sensor that is attached to your finger or earlobe.
Your heart rate, blood pressure, and temperature will be checked regularly.
There may be a dressing on your abdomen. The dressing will be checked and changed by your provider or the nursing staff as needed.
Your provider may prescribe medicine to:
Treat or prevent an infection
Soften stool and reduce straining with a bowel movement
Help relieve the symptoms of menopause if your ovaries were removed
What can I do to help?
You will need to tell your healthcare team if you have new or worsening:
Abdominal cramps or pain
Heavy vaginal bleeding
Swelling, redness, or pain in your legs
Shortness of breath
Trouble emptying your bladder
Change in bowel habits, such as pain, mucus, diarrhea, constipation, or other intestinal problems
Signs of infection around your surgical wound. These include:
The area around the wound is more red or painful
The wound area is very warm to touch
You have blood, pus, or other fluid coming from the wound area
You have chills or muscle aches
Ask questions about any medicine or treatment or information that you do not understand.
How long will I be in the hospital?
How long you will need to stay in the hospital will depend on the reason you needed the hysterectomy and how well you recover. This is often 2 to 3 days after you have the procedure.
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Acute Care Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth. Last modified: 2014-04-30 Last reviewed: 2014-04-15
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Lentz, G. M. (2012). Endometriosis. Comprehensive gynecology expert consult, online and print. (6th ed., p. online). Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Mosby.
Townsend Jr, C. M., Beauchamp, R. D., Evers, B. M., & Mattox, K. L. (2012). Sabiston Textbook of Surgery: Expert Consult Premium Edition: Enhanced Online Features. Elsevier Health Sciences.
US Department of Health & Human Services. (2011) National and regional estimates on hospital use for all patients from the HCUP nationwide inpatient sample. Agency for healthcare research and quality website. Retrieved 04/09/2014 from http://hcupnet.ahrq.gov/HCUPnet.jsp