Long-term hysterectomy risks are being studied and the findings are compelling.
Hysterectomies are common – but maybe not benign
About 600,000 hysterectomies (surgical removal of the uterus and sometimes the ovaries) are performed every year, but new research suggests that these surgeries may be putting women at greater risk of long-term health problems.
“Hysterectomy is the second most common gynecologic surgery, and most are done for benign reasons, because most physicians believe that this surgery has minimal long-term risks,” said researcher Dr. Shannon Laughlin-Tommaso of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.
Long-term hysterectomy risks studied
Laughlin-Tommaso’s study, however, indicates that this common wisdom regarding the impact of hysterectomies may be wrong. It examined the long-term health of 2,100 women who had undergone ovary-sparing hysterectomies between 1980 and 2002. Their health was compared to a control group who had not undergone a hysterectomy.
The study is considered retrospective, and, as a result, cannot prove cause and effect. However, what it can and did do is examine the correlations between hysterectomies and long-term health.
The Mayo study found that women who had a hysterectomy were at a greater risk for other ailments, such as:
- An 18 percent higher risk of obesity.
- A 14 percent higher risk of abnormal blood fat levels
- 13 percent more risk of high blood pressure. Perhaps most troubling, these women also had
- 33 percent greater chance of having heart disease
Greater risk for earlier hysterectomies
The study also found that women who underwent a hysterectomy before the age of 35 had even greater risks. For example, these younger women had 2.5 times the risk of developing coronary heart disease and 4.6 times the chance of developing congestive heart failure.
“This is the best data to date that shows women undergoing hysterectomy have a risk of long-term disease—even when both ovaries are conserved,” according to Laughlin-Tommaso in a Mayo news release. “While women are increasingly aware that removing their ovaries poses health risks, this study suggests hysterectomy alone has risks, especially for women who undergo the surgery prior to age 35.”
Non-surgical solutions encouraged
The study was retrospective versus being experimental. Therefore, it cannot absolutely prove hysterectomies are the cause of the participants’ long-term health issues. Women that require hysterectomy are generally more sick and are at increased risk of other ailments.
That said, the Mayo team encouraged women to explore nonsurgical options before submitting to a hysterectomy. Seek a second opinion when hysterectomy is the only option offered.
For example, women suffering from uterine fibroids should explore the minimally invasive treatment option uterine fibroid embolization (UFE).
Understanding long-term hysterectomy risks can mean better long-term health for more women.
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