Hysterectomy Hysteria

Ok, so that title is a little bit much. I have trouble avoiding some good alliteration sometimes.

I just read an interesting article in the Washington Post about one woman’s experience with hysterectomy. Another issue that is not really on the radar of midwives and doulas, let alone reproductive rights groups.

Stephanie Weiss discusses how she had to do a lot of badgering, as well as her own research to finally find a doctor who was willing to do a minimally invasive laparoscopic hysterectomy. And she didn’t get her entire system removed either, just the uterus and her melon sized fibroid (non-cancerous growth).

A surgeon removed my uterus — then the size of a 20-week pregnancy — through a quarter-inch hole near my belly button, leaving my ovaries and cervix intact.

From her perspective, the procedure she received was nothing compared to how most women still get their hysterectomies, what she calls “her mother’s hysterectomy,” through a large horizontal incision in the belly.

Old myths — including the one about minimally invasive surgery being excessively risky — die hard. Research shows that, in experienced hands, the risk of minimally invasive procedures is the same as or less than the risk of abdominal hysterectomy, Streicher said. But George says that 80 percent of the hysterectomies now done abdominally could be done laparoscopically.

Another instance in reproductive health care where women may not be getting the information they need to make the best options.


3 thoughts on “Hysterectomy Hysteria

  1. americanmum October 3, 2007 / 11:12 pm

    I actually had a hysterectomy last year (due to prolapse). Mine was neither through laproscopy or laparotomy (the incision kind). Mine was vaginal. The doctor recommended it. I was not able to keep my cervix this way, but it was a much faster recovery. Just another option to throw out there.

  2. Cara October 4, 2007 / 7:50 am

    Wow, I certainly didn’t know that. Thanks for the info.

  3. reb October 6, 2007 / 2:53 pm

    Lap hysts are a relatively new surgery (compared to an ab hyst), and can’t be done for everyone, depending on exactly what the pathology is and the women’s history. Many older gyns aren’t trained with the technology (morcellators and such) and many hospitals still don’t have the equipment; in two different hospitals I’ve seen the tech reps prowling around trying to sell docs on their versions and offering training seminars. Just to put out there that this isn’t necessarily the case of ‘the bad old docs’ who won’t give a women what she wants. Is it so suprising that you might have to shop around to find someone to do your procedure in a certain, newer way using new technology? I’m curious if she was offered a vag hyst – the older, more common way to do a hyst minimally invasively. You disconnect the uterus from all the relevant points laproscopically from above, then take it out through the vagina, leaving the cervix in place and tethered in the abdomen for support.

    Minimally invasive surgery is great for many reasons, but has its own risks; don’t tell, but at my institution we’ve recently had two aortic injuries during trocar insertion. And elsewhere I’ve seen several laps of various kinds end up with bowel perforations at the first insertion, too. And every lap has the potential to turn into an open if there is injury or mechanical / equipment failure.

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