Hysterectomy alternatives

Overview

A hysterectomy is the surgical removal of your uterus. You may be eligible for a hysterectomy if you suffer from certain conditions, such as fibroid tumors. Hysterectomies are invasive procedures that result in infertility, so less invasive alternatives are typically preferred when possible. These options include:

  • Fibroid embolization — Fibroid embolization, or uterine artery embolization, is a nonsurgical procedure that could help reduce inflammation and pain from uterine fibroids. This is a less-invasive procedure, which means less pain and recovery time as a result. During the procedure, your blood vessels are reached via a catheter inserted through your femoral artery (located in the upper thigh). The catheter then injects tiny particles that block the flow of blood, thus decreasing the size of your fibroids.
  • Myomectomy — Myomectomy is the removal of uterine fibroids, or myomas. Unlike a hysterectomy, your uterus remains preserved and you retain the ability to have children in the future. Typically, a myomectomy is performed through a laparotomy using tiny, specialized equipment allowing your surgeon to amplify their view without large incisions.
  • Hysteroscopy — A hysteroscope is a thin viewing instrument inserted through your vagina for a visual examination of the canal of your cervix and the interior of your uterus. This instrument is able to improve your physician’s visual capacity. Some fibroid tumors might be accessible via a hysteroscopic removal, especially if they are located primarily within the uterus. This procedure is minor and has a short recovery time.
  • Endometrial ablation — An endometrial ablation is a procedure that removes a thin layer of tissue from the lining of your uterus to stop or reduce abnormal bleeding. This procedure is a recommended option if you are done having children. A technique used to perform this procedure is balloon therapy, where a balloon at the end of a catheter is inserted into your uterus and filled with fluid. The balloon is then heated and the endometrial tissues erode away.

Depending on your condition, oral contraceptives or other hormonal therapies and medicines might be suitable.

Common conditions and reasons for treatment

Conditions that would require an alternative hysterectomy procedure include:

  • Fibroids — Fibroids are the most common tumors found in the female reproductive system. Fibroids are dense growths that are made of smooth muscle cells and fibrous connective tissue, which develop in the uterus. In most cases, the tumors are benign (non-cancerous). While the exact cause of fibroids is unknown, it is believed that tumors grow from an abnormal muscle cell in the uterus, which then grow rapidly due to the influence of estrogen.
  • Endometriosis — Endometriosis is a painful disorder in which the tissue that normally lines the inside of your uterus (the endometrium) grows outside of your uterus. Every month, endometrial tissue is shed during menstruation. Tissue found in abnormal places is referred to as an endometrial implant. Typically, endometrial tissue can be found in your ovaries, fallopian tubes and the tissue that lines your pelvis. Symptoms of endometriosis include painful periods, painful intercourse, excessive bleeding, infertility and pain with bowel movements.
  • Menstrual disorders — Menstrual disorders are conditions that disrupt your normal menstrual cycle, such as heavy bleeding (menorrhagia) and painful periods (dysmenorrhea). Menstrual disorders can become debilitating to your everyday life. 

Risks and side effects

Although the risks and side effects of hysterectomy alternatives vary by treatment, common possible risks include:

  • Infection
  • Damage to other organs
  • Issues with fertility in the future
  • Bleeding
  • Injury of the uterus 

Preparing for treatment

When preparing for one of these alternative procedures, there are several factors to keep in mind:

  • Food and drink — Depending on the treatment you’re preparing for, you may be required to stop eating or drinking before your appointment. Your physician will inform you on particulars depending on your procedure
  • Ask questions ­— Our professionals are there to help you fully prepare for this procedure. We encourage you to ask questions about any concerns you may have

What to expect after treatment

After receiving an alternative treatment to a hysterectomy, it’s important to understand that your recovery is ongoing. Your doctor may request follow-ups to ensure that the procedure was successful. 

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