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Demystifying Hysterectomy Part I: What is a hysterectomy?

Posted May 11 2010 12:00am

Hysterectomy is the most commonly performed gynecological surgical procedure. Over 600,000 hysterectomies are performed in the United States every year, most often for benign (non-cancerous) conditions. 

But what is hysterectomy?  Literally, the term means “removal of the uterus.”  But there are many types of hysterectomy and several ways in which it can be performed.

First, the types:

A total hysterectomy (often called a complete hysterectomy) means surgical removal of the uterine body or corpus, the dome of the uterus or fundus, and the neck of the uterus or cervix.

The term partial hysterectomy is often used to describe what doctors call a supracervical hysterectomy.  This surgery involves removal of the uterine body and fundus.  It leaves all or a portion of the cervix intact. 

Patients with certain types of cervical cancer may require a procedure called radical hysterectomy, which involves the removal of all parts of the uterus as well as other tissues adjacent to it the pelvis, including the upper vagina. 

The removal of the ovaries and fallopian tubes, called salpingoophorectomy, is not included in any of the terms describing hysterectomy, even if both procedures are done at the same time.

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