Impact of Hysterectomy

To give you an idea of how different operations rank in seriousness, we will describe a hospital's surgical classification system, which divides surgical procedures into five categories. Category 1 refers to the least invasive types of surgery, such as a D&C; category 5, which includes open-heart surgery and liver transplantation, contains the most complex types of surgical procedures. Hysterectomy falls right in the middle, in category 3.

The impact of a surgery, however, may go beyond its classification. Removal of a uterus has far greater emotional significance on the patient than removal of an appendix or gallbladder or a joint replacement. Any surgical procedure on the female reproductive tract can have far-reaching implications that transcend a successful outcome. This is especially true of hysterectomy. The prospects of this surgery threaten your control over your own body and may affect your sexuality. Many women speak of the fear of feeling "less like a woman" after hysterectomy. It is important to be emotionally as well as physically ready for the surgery. It's not always easy.

^ After years of suffering severe and painful symptoms from fibroids,

Stephanie made the decision to have a hysterectomy. Even though she felt certain this was the best course to take, she was frightened and nervous. She spent the night before the surgery at a hotel across the street from the hospital and couldn't stop thinking about all the risks associated with anesthesia and what could go wrong after surgery.

^ Rebecca also had fibroids and had tried for years to become pregnant but never conceived. Emotionally, she found the hysterectomy decision to be gut-wrenching." Once her surgery was scheduled, she couldn't bear to see a woman with a baby. The finality of what she was going to do was nearly overwhelming.

^ When her doctor told her he thought she should have a hysterectomy, Leslie read every book she could find on the subject and was alarmed by what she read. She was terrified of the surgery—afraid of being cut, afraid of anesthesia, afraid of not being in control. But she trusted her doctor, and when he recommended hysterectomy, she knew she should put it off no longer.

Here are some of the important questions a woman must address with her doctor as the decision is made to have a hysterectomy:

• Is my general health good enough for me to undergo surgery?

• Will the surgical procedure impair my future health in any way?

• What approach will be taken—vaginal, abdominal, or laparoscopic?

• Will it be necessary for my ovaries to be removed?

• Will it be necessary for my cervix to be removed?

Information to help you explore these questions is provided in this part of our book.

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