Hysterectomy type makes little difference in later sexual function

Women who undergo a total hysterectomy, in which both the uterus and the cervix are removed, are no more likely to experience sexual difficulties or urinary or bowel problems after surgery than women who have only their uterus removed, a new review has found.

This finding contradicts perceptions among some women and physicians that retaining the cervix is preferable or even necessary to pelvic function.

Total hysterectomy is a slightly more complex and lengthy operation, but the likelihood of ongoing menstrual bleeding after surgery is increased with subtotal hysterectomy.

"Women considering surgery will have to balance the supposed advantages of a less complicated surgery with a risk of cyclical bleeding after subtotal hysterectomy," said lead author Anne Lethaby of the University of Auckland in New Zealand. "The review did not find any other differences."

The review appears in the current issue of The Cochrane Library, a publication of The Cochrane Collaboration, an international organization that evaluates research in all aspects of health care. Systematic reviews draw evidence-based conclusions about medical practice after considering both the content and quality of existing trials on a topic.

The rationale for the review, according to the authors, was to compare the safety and effectiveness of subtotal and total hysterectomy and to evaluate the perception that total hysterectomy could increase the risk of urinary incontinence, bowel problems and reduced sexual pleasure.

The reviewers identified three randomized controlled trials enrolling a total of 733 women that compared subtotal and total hysterectomy for noncancerous conditions. The most common reasons for hysterectomy in these trials were fibroids and heavy menstrual bleeding.

There was no evidence in these trials that total hysterectomy increased the risk of urinary or bowel problems. In the two years following surgery, women receiving a total hy

Contact: Anne Lethaby
Center for the Advancement of Health

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