A hysterectomy is a surgical procedure that removes the uterus. It can include other surrounding parts of the reproductive organs, such as the cervix, the ovaries (oophorectomy), and the fallopian tubes (salpingectomy). The different types of hysterectomies are:
A hysterectomy is usually performed for conditions that do not respond to conservative treatments. These include:
Based on the reason why a hysterectomy is needed, the type of approach will vary.
Once you’ve decided to proceed with hysterectomy surgery, there are a few things you can do to prepare. First, be sure you understand which procedure you will be having. Ask your doctor about the expected recovery time. This way, you can prepare your employer for how long you will need to be out of work for recovery.
If you have disability coverage, speak with your Human Resources department and gather the forms you will need to complete. There will be an “Attending Physician Statement” that will need to be completed by your doctor's office.
If you are overweight, lose some. This will decrease your risk for post-operative complications. These include:
If you smoke, quit prior to surgery. Smoking can affect your breathing afterward. Healing time may be delayed as well. Nicotine constricts the blood vessels.
Other medical conditions should be well managed prior to your surgery. Your recovery will be smoother. These conditions include:
Talk to your doctor about medications you take daily, including vitamins and supplements. Typically, you will be asked to hold any blood thinners prior to surgery, as well as supplements, because some can increase the risk of bleeding during your procedure.
In the month before surgery, be sure to eat well. The body needs protein for healing. Choose good sources of protein with each meal. This includes:
Walking after surgery is very important. Anesthesia and narcotic pain medication slow the bowel. Walking helps stimulate the bowel to function. It also reduces the risk of developing blood clots in the legs. It is a good idea to be conditioned to walk prior to surgery. A good goal is to walk 20 minutes at least 3 times a week. If 20 minutes is too much, consider 2 ten-minute walks. Walking also increases your metabolism and helps to speed the healing process.
If you live alone, shop the week prior to surgery. Plan easy-to-fix meals. Plan for drinking plenty of fluids. This will help with constipation and keep you hydrated after surgery.
Plan for a ride to and from the hospital. You will not be driving for 1-2 weeks (depending on the type of surgery you have). Remember 2 things:
Eat light. Some doctors want you to do a bowel prep (cleansing) the day before. Follow the doctor’s instructions for this. If your surgery is in the morning, you may be asked to hold fluids after midnight.
Nothing to eat or drink. Wear loose, comfortable clothing to the hospital. You will most likely be wearing these clothes home after surgery. Your belly may be tender and bloated afterward.
Do not wear any make-up or jewelry. No contact lenses. No dentures. You can wear dentures and eyeglasses to the hospital, but you will be required to remove them prior. Your doctor will see you in the office for a post-operative appt about 10-14 days after your procedure.
Should you have any questions or concerns about your recovery, do not hesitate to call your doctor.
Author Profile: Christine Kijek, Registered Colorectal Nurse
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