As with all types of surgery, a hysterectomy can sometimes lead to complications.
Some of the possible complications are described below.
It's very rare for serious complications to occur after having a general anaesthetic (1 in 10,000 anaesthetics given).
Serious complications can include nerve damage, allergic reaction and death. However, death is very rare – there's 1 in 100,000 to 1 in 200,000 chance of dying after having a general anaesthetic.
Being fit and healthy before you have an operation reduces your risk of developing complications.
As with all major operations, there's a small risk of heavy bleeding (haemorrhage) after having a hysterectomy.
If you have a haemorrhage, you may need a blood transfusion.
The ureter (the tube that urine is passed through) may be damaged during surgery, which happens in around 1% of cases. This is usually repaired during the hysterectomy.
Bladder or bowel damage
In rare cases, damage to abdominal organs such as the bladder or bowel can occur. This can cause problems such as:
It may be possible to repair any damage during the hysterectomy. You may need a temporary catheter to drain your urine or a colostomy to collect your bowel movements.
There's always a risk of an infection after an operation. This could be a wound infection or a urinary tract infection. These aren't usually serious and can be treated with antibiotics.
A thrombosis is a blood clot that forms in a vein and interferes with blood circulation and the flow of oxygen around the body. The risk of developing blood clots increases after having operations and periods of immobility.
You'll be encouraged to start moving around as soon as possible after your operation. You may also be given an injection of a blood-thinning medication (anticoagulant) to reduce the risk of clots.
If you have a vaginal hysterectomy, there's a risk of problems at the top of your vagina where the cervix was removed. This could range from slow wound healing after the operation to prolapse in later years.
Even if one or both of your ovaries are left intact, they could fail within five years of having your hysterectomy. This is because your ovaries receive some of their blood supply through the womb, which is removed during the operation.
If you've had your ovaries removed, you'll usually have menopausal symptoms soon after the operation, such as:
- hot flushes
- vaginal dryness
- disturbed sleep
This is because the menopause is triggered once you stop producing eggs from your ovaries (ovulating).
This is an important consideration if you're under the age of 40, because early onset of the menopause can increase your risk of developing brittle bones (osteoporosis). This is because oestrogen levels decrease during the menopause.
Depending on your age and circumstances, you may need to take additional medication to prevent osteoporosis.