Hysterectomy is the second most prevalent type of surgery that women of reproductive age undergo in the USA because it can address a number of female medical conditions as the last resort; however, new research says that about a fifth of all hysterectomies performed in the US may no longer be necessary for the future.
Hold the Surgery!
In a study that was recently published in the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology, data showed that 20% of hysterectomies done as treatment to non-cancerous medical conditions may have alternative treatments and are not necessary. The study also suggests that alternative therapies and treatments are underutilized.
A 20% reduction is significant because it is projected that 1 in every 3 American women will have a hysterectomy by the time they reach age 60. This figure remains true although figures have fallen from 680,000 in 2002 to just around 434,000 in 2010.
Melissa Goist, OB-GYN and assistant professor at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center in Columbus shared that a hysterectomy is a serious surgery that entails the surgical extraction of the uterus (sometimes including the cervix, ovaries, and fallopian tubes) that can pose a serious risk of injury because major organs and blood vessels are moved around during the procedure.
Because of the above, complications following a hysterectomy can include bleeding and blood clots in the deep veins of the body, damage to internal organs such as the bladder and bowels, complications with anesthesia use, and infections. More so, because the uterus is taken away, a woman who’ve had a hysterectomy will no longer be able to get pregnant and will no longer have menstrual periods.
Who Are Candidates for Hysterectomy?
The above is not to say that the risks of having a hysterectomy outweigh the benefits. In cancerous conditions and other life-threatening medical issues, taking out the diseased organ is an absolute necessity to save the woman’s life.
Hysterectomies are used as a surgical intervention for cancers affecting the uterus, fallopian tubes, cervix, and ovaries. It is also used to treat uterine prolapse, chronic pelvic pain, severe endometriosis, and uterine fibroids. It should be noted that the majority of hysterectomies are performed to those diagnosed with benign conditions.
Women’s health specialist and OB-GYN Sheryl Ross says that she isn’t surprised by the findings but thinks that women should be given alternatives therapies prior to being told to undergo a hysterectomy. She further added that alternative treatments such as the use of hormones can treat benign gynecological medical conditions and that doctors are underutilizing them.
Alternatives to Look Into
Ross shared that women diagnosed with fibroids can ask their doctors about uterine artery embolization that may help shrink the uterine masses. Myectomy can also be an option instead of taking out the entire uterus, thus preserving fertility. For those with severe and chronic bleeding, endometrial ablation might be the answer and that the use of a pessary and Kegel exercises may help support the uterus of women with uterine prolapse.
Ross further added that those who are truly in need of a hysterectomy are women who’ve already tried and failed non-surgical options. Goist agreed to this and recommended that women should be pro-active in asking their doctors regarding alternative treatments. After all, a gynecological surgeon’s primary responsibility is to give the patient the best possible treatment.