Uwarranted Surgery: Hysterectomy Complications and Dangers can be Avoided

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Hysterectomy procedures are some of the most common surgeries in the nation and are performed on more than 600,000 women every year. Shockingly, by the age of 65, one half of all women will have had a hysterectomy surgery, yet two thirds or more of these serious procedures are medically unwarranted and expose patients to a host of undesirable hysterectomy complications. Numerous safer and less expensive options are available, yet doctors often fail to fully inform patients of the alternatives. When presented with more information, more than 90 percent of women have been shown to opt out of a hysterectomy, implying that truly informed consent has not been obtained in many cases. Additionally, most women who have had their cervix removed during a hysterectomy continue to receive annual pap tests, putting them at an increased risk of false positive results which typically lead to additional medical procedures.

Reason for Hysterectomy: Legitimate or Money Driven?

Every year, hospitals and physicians charge more than $17 billion for services related to hysterectomies. While certain types of invasive cancers, unmanageable infections and/or bleeding and complications during childbirth medically justify the removal of all or part of a woman's reproductive system, in the majority of cases, safer and less expensive alternatives exist. Many experts estimate that at least two thirds of all hysterectomies performed are unnecessary; some believe the number is even higher, with those from the Weill Cornell Medical College estimating the "medically unwarranted" figure to be upwards of 85 percent. Health care providers are required to relay information pertaining to the benefits, risks, possible hysterectomy complications, and alterative procedures before informed consent from the patient can be granted. Unfortunately, the smaller profit margins associated with alternative treatments may prompt many health care providers to encourage hysterectomy surgery, even when they are not the best option.

Hysterectomy Complications and Side Effects are Serious and Dangerous

The removal of a woman's reproductive system is associated with serious side effects, including:

  • Infections, hemorrhage and/or damage to internal organs as a result of the surgery itself;
  • An increased risk of heart disease;
  • Bone and joint pain as well as osteoporosis;
  • Reduced libido, painful intercourse and/or displacement or damage to the bladder, bowels and/or vagina;
  • Weight gain, fatigue, digestive disorders and constipation;
  • Emotional challenges which may include suicidal thoughts and undesirable personality changes.

Side effects are exacerbated when a woman's ovaries have been removed in addition to her uterus and cervix.

Alternatives to Hysterectomy

When fibroids, monthly bleeding issues, endometriosis, certain cancers, and uterine prolapse are the reasons behind a physician's recommendation for a hysterectomy, women should be informed of the following alterative treatments:

  • Endometrial Ablation or Dilation and Curettage (D&C) to remove the lining of the uterus;
  • Vaginal pessaries to hold the uterus in place during the recovery period following prolapse;
  • A Loop Electrosurgical Excisional Procedure (LEEP), cryosurgery, or a radical trachelectomy (removal of the cervix and/or part of the lower uterus) to treat cancers that have not spread to other areas of the body;
  • Laparoscopic myomectomy, uterine artery embolization (UAE), anti-estrogen drugs and more to shrink or remove uterine fibroids.

Patient Education Significantly Reduces Hysterectomy Rate

The Hysterectomy Educational Resources and Services (HERS) Foundation prepared an educational video to fully inform women of hysterectomy complications vs. the alternative treatment options currently available. When exposed to this information, a full 98 percent of patients chose an alternative method or no treatment method at all. Unfortunately, many of the women who do opt out of a hysterectomy do so after performing independent research as opposed to being educated directly through their physician (who is legally obligated to obtain informed consent for any medical procedure).

Unnecessary Hysterectomy-Prompted Procedures Continue After Surgery

Pap screening to check for any beginning signs of cervical cancer has become the standard of care for adult women of all ages. However, once a woman has had her cervix removed during a hysterectomy, the logic to continuing with pap screening becomes far from sound and not a single medical organization recommends testing for women in this group. Ten million women without a cervix are still receiving a pap test every year; since there is no cervical tissue to sample, doctors will collect tissue from the vaginal walls of these women. Vaginal samples are associated with a high rate of false positive results which are likely to lead to additional unnecessary interventions. Cancers of the vagina are extremely rare, but vaginal tissue often appears suspicious to health care providers who examine pap tests. As a result, many women end up undergoing treatment for a pre-cancerous condition which does not exist.

If you or a loved one has undergone a hysterectomy without being fully informed of the risks, it is important to promptly speak with a professional attorney to discuss the possibility of compensation for any undesired side effects.


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