hysterectomy (hĭstərĕkˈtəmē) [key], surgical removal of the uterus. A hysterectomy may involve removal of the uterus only or additional removal of the cervix (base of the uterus), fallopian tubes (salpingectomy), and ovaries (oophorectomy). It may be performed through a conventional abdominal incision or through the vagina. It is performed in cases of malignant tumors, endometriosis, prolapsed uterus, or fibroids that cause bleeding and pain. An emergency hysterectomy is sometimes necessary to end uterine hemorrhaging.
Removal does not physically interfere with sexual activity, but it does eliminate the uterine contractions of orgasm. It also eliminates the possibility of childbearing and precipitates menopause in premenopausal women. Surgical removal of the ovaries eliminates their production of estrogen and progesterone along with these hormones's protective benefits to the heart, bones, and skin.
Some women's health advocates have questioned what they feel is the overuse of hysterectomy in the United States, where it is the second most common surgical procedure. Some studies have judged that up to 25% of hysterectomies performed in the United States are unnecessary and that more conservative treatments (laparoscopic surgery, hormone therapy, or simple removal of fibroids) would suffice in these cases.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.