A hysterectomy performed with a laparoscope has a significantly shorter recovery time than open abdominal surgery, the most common way to perform a hysterectomy. A surgeon performing a laparoscopic operation makes several small abdominal incisions instead of one large opening. Because there is no large incision, women can usually leave the hospital in 1 to 2 days and return to work in 2 weeks.
In a laparoscopic-assisted vaginal hysterectomy, instruments are inserted through several small incisions, including the belly button. One of these instruments is an endoscope, a miniature camera, which allows the doctor to view the surgical site. The uterus is cut into pieces, which can either be removed through the laparoscope or the vagina. This surgery is more expensive and takes longer than open surgery, but patients are able to leave the hospital sooner and recover more quickly.
After an open hysterectomy, patients usually stay in the hospital 3 to 4 days and need 6 weeks to recover. There are other types of minimally invasive surgery, all with similar recovery times to laparoscopic surgery. One, a vaginal hysterectomy, has the advantage of producing no scar. But without a laparoscope and endoscope, the surgeon cannot see the pelvic organs as well. The least invasive hysterectomy available today is robotically assisted. The da Vinci robot provides doctors with a high-definition, 3D, magnified view of the surgical site. The surgeon operates the robot, which is able to make movements too tiny and precise for the human hand.
Though most women can return to work 2 weeks after a minimally invasive hysterectomy, it often takes much longer to feel completely normal. It is still major surgery, and organs are shifted around and stressed in removing the uterus. Many women are sore for a month, some for as much as 6 months. Swelling after the surgery is also typical. The support group Hystersisters.com says that it takes most women 6 months after their surgery before they experience a single day without thinking about it.
In addition to the physical toll of surgery, women who have had their ovaries removed also have instant menopause with which to contend. Removing the ovaries, like natural menopause, causes women's estrogen levels to plummet. This can cause symptoms including hot flashes, night sweats, mood swings, bone loss, and vaginal dryness, itchiness and burning. Women experiencing these problems should talk to their doctors about hormone replacement therapy. Taking supplementary estrogen can combat symptoms of menopause, but it also increases the risk of some cancers.
If there are complications during surgery, a doctor performing any type of hysterectomy could be forced to resort to an abdominal incision.