Hysterectomy Complications
Medical Problems After Surgery

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medical complications after major surgical intervention

Hysterectomy Complications


What Complications Can A Hysterectomy Cause?
General Complications Associated With Surgery
Specific Complications Associated With Hysterectomy
When To Call A Doctor
Personal Stories

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Guide To Hysterectomy

What Complications Can A Hysterectomy Cause?

Although a hysterectomy is a relatively safe operation, it is still a major surgery. And like all major surgeries it carries health risks. Even if the surgeon is highly skilled, complications can still occur. Some of the potential complications are related to all surgery, while others are specific to hysterectomy. For example, dangerous blood clots can form in the legs in anyone who is bed bound for a period of time, and these clots can travel to the lungs causing instant death. Risks from infection, reactions to drugs and anesthetic are all complications associated with any major surgery.

Other risks are particular to hysterectomies, including bowel disorders due to damage in the pelvic area or premature ovarian failure. Generally an abdominal hysterectomy carries more risks than a vaginal hysterectomy. In addition to medical complications, some women also experience short or long term hysterectomy side effects such as hot flushes and reduced sexual desire.

General Complications Associated With Surgery

Infections: Between 30 and 40 percent of women experience post-operative infections that require treatment. Although most are cured with antibiotics, some develop large abscesses that require more surgery to fix.

Heavy Bleeding: Hemorrhage requiring a blood transfusion occurs during surgery in about 15 percent of hysterectomies. Abnormal bleeding can also occur 1 to 2 weeks later, which if not dealt with can be quickly fatal.

Blood Clots: The risk of blood clots forming in the leg veins or pelvis is higher with surgery performed on organs in the pelvic area. Fortunately this serious complication is very rare. Wearing support stockings, performing leg exercises and becoming mobile early in the hysterectomy recovery stage will reduce the risk of clot formation. Your doctor may also give you an anticoagulant injection.

Anesthesia: There is a one in 60,000 chance of dying from a general anesthesia.

Specific Complications Associated With Hysterectomy

Damage To Other Organs: Blood supply to nearby organs (bowels, bladder, vagina or ovaries) can be disrupted during a hysterectomy procedure. Or, if the surgeon is not highly skilled he may accidentally damage the organs causing long-term problems.

Urinary Disorders: Some studies indicate that there is a 10 percent risk of developing urinary incontinence within the first 2 years of surgery, or the condition can worsen if you already had it. And just to confuse everyone, other research shows no risk or that a hysterectomy may even improve urinary incontinence in women who already suffered from it. Problems with urinary tract infections however are common within a few weeks of surgery; nearly 50 percent of percent of patients develop either a bladder or kidney infection. This is treated with antibiotics. See also, urinary tract infections treatment, as well as natural treatment for urinary tract infections.

Bowel Disorders: One study with 75 women found that the operation caused less frequent bowel movements in some participants who later needed to resort to professional help for chronic constipation.

Fistulas: A fistula is where organs, tissue or vessels stick together, usually the result of healing after a surgery or injury. For example, some women complain of pain on one side of their tummy after a hysterectomy - if an ovary was left in place, it may have stuck to other tissues in the healing process. The most common fistula related to hysterectomies is called a vesico-vaginal fistula. That is where the bladder and vagina connect, resulting in urine passing into the vagina. Most fistulas need to be repaired by surgery, and as it is a delicate procedure, it is not always successful.

Premature Ovarian Failure: If your ovaries were left in place, there is a slight risk that they won't function normally. This is because they used to receive some of their blood supply through the womb which is removed during the procedure.

Heart Disease: There is an increased risk of coronary heart disease in women who have both ovaries removed during a hysterectomy. Your doctor may recommend taking estrogen replacement therapy to counteract this effect. According to the large Nurses Health Study, women who keep at least one ovary do not appear to be at risk.

Going Home: When To Call A Doctor

Before leaving hospital your doctor will give you a list of warning signs of potential complications. If any of the following occur in the days or weeks following surgery, be sure to call your medical team immediately:

• You have a fever over 100F.
• Your leg is tender, swollen or red.
• You experience chest pain.
• You have difficulties breathing or you are coughing up blood.
• You have large quantities of vaginal discharge which may be smelly.
• You are in pain which is not relieved by the medications given you when you left hospital.
• You cannot urinate, there is blood in your urine or you feel bladder discomfort.

Personal Stories

I had pain at my incision site for weeks. I not back to being truly normal for at least 3 months. I did go back to work for a couple of hours a day after 4 weeks, but I could not climb stairs or lift anything heavy for 12 weeks.

I had a hysterectomy last year, and after a week at home I ended up in ER because of constipation, fever, infection and my tummy was bloated. I was sent in for more surgery and it turned out I had a fistula and my intestines were all stuck together. They had to 'unglue' it all again. It took several more weeks to recover.

I'm 43 years old and since my hysterectomy I've had complications with my bowels. I've suffered constipation and haven't been able to have what they call complete evacuation of my bowels since the operation. When I try to go, I get an abdominal pain that radiates from the front to the back. The other problem I've developed is pain on intercourse. It feels like I'm being hit, and most positions are just too uncomfortable to try now. My sex drive has completely dried up. Also, I get sporadic pain around the point of the incision on my stomach. I kinda wish I had found out more about the alternatives to hysterectomy now.

I had a hysterectomy when I was 49 because I was getting really heavy periods, every 2 weeks. It turned out to be cervical cancer and they had to do a radical hysterectomy. I'm doing fine since and I really don't miss the hassle of periods. It took me about 8 weeks to fully recover from the operation. My sister had the operation last year, but she was given the vaginal option and she was up and about in half the time.

My sister had a hysterectomy at the age of 35 and thinks it's the best thing she's ever done. Her womb was the size of a 4 month pregnant woman because it was so full of fibroids. Can fibroids cause weight gain? Absolutely. Ultimately, she felt it was her only option, and she's happy she did it.

I have a weird one. I had my uterus removed about 2 months ago. Instead of gaining weight, as I've read about, I actually lost it. I've lost 15 pounds in the last month. I think it's to do with stress. I eat well, but I've been so scared about all the potential side effects, that its stopped me eating as much as normal.

I had a hysterectomy a year ago, I'm 41. I didn't have any particular problems and I'm really happy with the results. However, it was a painful operation and it was painful to recover from. I'd always recommend women take their pain meds on schedule and take a stool softener for at least 6 weeks after the operation. Sometimes it's still a bit painful to have a bowel movement.


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