In the United States, hysterectomies are the second most common procedure performed on women, after cesarean sections. A hysterectomy is a surgery in which the uterus is removed from a woman. While studies show that most hysterectomies are unnecessary unless the woman has endometrial or cervical cancer, only about 10 percent of the estimated 600,000 hysterectomies performed per year are done to remove cancer.
Reasons for Hysterectomy
A hysterectomy may be recommended if the patient has any of these conditions:
- Cervical cancer
- Endometrial cancer
- Chronic pelvic pain
- Severe endometriosis
- Uterine prolapsed, where the uterus slips into the vagina
- Uterine fibroids
- Excessive vaginal bleeding
While many doctors recommend hysterectomies to combat these conditions, studies show that nearly any condition other than cancer can be treated effectively with medication, therapy, or lesser surgeries. Performing an unnecessary hysterectomy can expose a patient to unnecessary risks. Patients should be aware of all options for treatment of the specific condition before agreeing to an unnecessary hysterectomy.
Reasons for Unnecessary Hysterectomy
A myomectomy is a surgery done to remove fibroids without complete removal of organs. While a myomectomy can effectively cure a patient that has been suffering from uterine fibroids, many surgeons do not receive extensive training to perform myomectomies, while hysterectomies are extensively covered during surgical training. Thus, some physicians recommend a hysterectomy rather than a myomectomy based solely on the experience of the surgeon.
Surgeons may also recommend an unnecessary hysterectomy because of a misdiagnosis. Endometrial cancer and cervical cancer are commonly misdiagnosed. These conditions cause symptoms that are similar to many other conditions.
A physician may rush a cancer diagnosis because if a patient does have cervical or endometrial cancer, surgery is only effective in curing the cancer when it is caught in early stages. A physician may recommend an unnecessary hysterectomy without doing further testing out of the fear that the cancer will spread in the time it takes to perform the proper tests. Certain tests, such as biopsies and blood tests, may also be misinterpreted by pathologists, resulting in a misdiagnosis and an unnecessary hysterectomy. Surgeries are expensive, so greed may also be a motivating factor in recommending an unnecessary hysterectomy.
During a hysterectomy, a surgeon may remove the entire uterus or only a part of it. This is called a partial hysterectomy. In a total hysterectomy, the entire uterus and the cervix are removed. In a radical hysterectomy, the uterus, cervix, the upper part of the vagina, the fallopian tubes, and the tissue on the sides of the cervix are removed. Medical history and the severity of the condition are factors in determining which type of surgery to perform.
A hysterectomy can be performed abdominally or vaginally. Laparoscopically assisted hysterectomies are becoming increasingly common, and the use of a laparoscope can be helpful when doing most types of hysterectomies. A laparoscope is a wand or tube with a camera attached to it that can be inserted through a small incision in a patient’s abdomen to assist the surgeon in viewing the inside of the body during surgery.
During a vaginal hysterectomy, the laparoscope is used to allow the surgeon to view the inside of the abdomen while removing the uterus through the vagina. During a laparoscopically assisted abdominal hysterectomy, the uterus may be entirely removed through small incisions made in the uterus. This allows the surgery to be performed with minimal invasiveness, preventing risks of infection and excessive blood loss. In some cases, it is necessary to do open surgery, however.
Risks of Unnecessary Hysterectomy
Performing an unnecessary hysterectomy exposes patients to needless risks and side effects. A hysterectomy will render a patient unable to become pregnant or carry a child. Going through the hysterectomy makes the patients vulnerable to infection and may result in blood loss and injury if there are unforeseen complications.
Common side effects of a hysterectomy also include:
- Urinary disorders
- Changes in sexual desire and response
- Joint pain
If a hysterectomy is necessary to save the patient’s life, these risks and side effects are worth taking and living with. However, if an unnecessary hysterectomy is performed, a patient has been exposed to these risks and complications needlessly. Patients that feel that they have undergone an unnecessary hysterectomy should contact an attorney.
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