What is a Hysterectomy?
When medication and non-invasive procedures are unable to relieve symptoms, surgery remains the accepted and most effective treatment for a range of gynecologic conditions. These include, but are not limited to, cervical and uterine cancer, uterine fibroids, endometriosis, uterine prolapse and menorrhagia or excessive bleeding. Hysterectomy is a surgical procedure that is an effective treatment for a number of conditions.
Hysterectomy, the surgical removal of the uterus to treat a wide variety of uterine condition is performed over 600,000 times each year. This makes it the second most common surgical procedure for women.
In the USA, the majority of hysterectomies are performed using an “open” approach, which is through a large abdominal incision. An open approach to the hysterectomy procedure requires a 6-12 inch incision. Traditional open gynecologic surgery, using this large incision for access to the uterus and surrounding anatomy, has for many years been the standard approach to many gynecologic procedures. Yet with open surgery can come significant pain, trauma, a long recovery process and threat to surrounding organs and nerves. For women facing gynecologic surgery, the period of pain, discomfort and extended time away from normal daily activities that usually follows traditional surgery can understandably cause significant anxiety.
Fortunately, less invasive options are available. Our team of physicians utilize vaginal, laparoscopic and da Vinci procedures to access the target anatomy. When hysterectomy is necessary our providers take all the patient factors in consideration before recommending an approach.
Are there different kinds of hysterectomy procedures?
Yes. As noted, most hysterectomies in the US are open hysterectomies. While rare cases may call for an open hysterectomy, more than 99% of the hysterectomies performed at Minnesota Women's Care are minimally invasive procedures. This means that the surgery is performed with a much smaller incision. In real terms, for you as a patient, this means a faster recovery time and less pain.
These are the basic types of hysterectomies that are considered to be minimally invasive:
For several decades, physicians have been routinely performing vaginal hysterectomies. This is where an incision is made in the vagina and the uterus is removed through this incision. There is no incision visible on the abdomen.
During this procedure, several small incisions are made in the abdomen. A lighted instrument with a camera is inserted through one of the incisions. The uterus is cut into small pieces and removed through the incisions.
da Vinci® Robotic Assisted Hysterectomy
Our surgeons use the da Vinci Surgical Robot for most of the hysterectomies performed. This system allows us to use much smaller incisions and smaller surgical tools. For our patients, there’s less pain, less blood loss during surgery and a much faster recovery.
An important advancement in Laparoscopic Supracervical Hysterectomy
Following the FDA warning in 2014, many physicians stopped using minimally invasive surgery for laparoscopic supracervical hysterectomies. For women who desired treatment that left the cervix intact, the surgical options were limited. That has now changed. Dr. Ashford is one of the few surgeons in the US to use the PneumoLiner system – allowing him once again to be able to perform this specialized kind of hysterectomy. You can read more about this advancement here: Laparoscopic Supracervical Hysterectomy with the PneumoLiner
During a hysterectomy, the uterus (or womb) is removed. In some instances, the ovaries may also be removed at the same time.
Benefits of the da Vinci Hysterectomy
The da Vinci System includes a 3D high definition system which allows our surgeons to operate with an unequalled view of the abdominal area. The state-of-the-art surgical tools are controlled directly and offer more precision and control than other comparable minimally invasive procedures. The system allows our surgeons to perform highly complex surgeries without the large incision that was previously required for this kind of surgery.
Over the years he has been operating with the da Vinci system, the benefits to patients are clear. The list includes:
- Shorter hospital stays
- Less post-operative pain
- Less blood loss during surgery
- Faster recovery
- Minimal scarring
If your physician has recommended a hysterectomy, we encourage you to find out if this surgical process is right for you. Our patients have been pleasantly surprised by their fast recovery and how different their experience was from their mother or grandmother. As our founder, Dr. Ashford, says, "It’s really gratifying to me as a physician to be able to bring relief to women after years of suffering from painful conditions and to do so in a way that provides for a smooth recovery and a faster return to their busy lives."
Additional hysterectomy information:
The da Vinci Surgical System allows our physicians to perform surgery with enhanced precision and control – using only a few small incisions. Click here to read more about the da Vinci assisted hysterectomy.