A subtotal hysterectomy is also known as a partial or supracervical hysterectomy. During a subtotal hysterectomy, the surgeon removes a woman's uterus but leaves the cervix in place. With a total hysterectomy, both the uterus and cervix are removed. In some cases, the surgeon might also remove other tissues or organs, including the fallopian tubes or ovaries.
There are multiple reasons a woman might undergo a hysterectomy. A doctor could recommend a hysterectomy if a woman has uterine, ovarian or cervical cancer. Other reasons for a hysterectomy include persistent pelvic pain, vaginal bleeding that cannot be controlled by other methods and uterine prolapse, which is when the uterus descends into the vagina. Some doctors might recommend a hysterectomy for severe endometriosis, when the uterine lining grows outside of the uterus. For women with fibroids, or benign uterine tumors, hysterectomy is a treatment option.
In some cases, if the woman's medical issue does not necessitate removal of the cervix, a doctor can perform a subtotal hysterectomy. If a woman is suffering from abnormal bleeding, pelvic pain or uterine fibroids, she might have a choice about whether her cervix should be removed. After a subtotal hysterectomy, the woman typically has a shorter recovery time than with a total hysterectomy. Additionally, there usually is less damage to the urinary tract, less blood loss and a lower risk of infection. Some drawbacks include the possibility of more vaginal bleeding and more urinary incontinence problems than with a total hysterectomy.
There are several ways of performing a hysterectomy. During an abdominal hysterectomy, the surgeon makes an incision across the lower part of the abdomen to remove the uterus. For a vaginal hysterectomy, the surgeon makes the incision in the vagina. Some surgeons make multiple smaller incisions and utilize a laparoscope, which is a small instrument that enables them to perform the surgery within the body cavity. During a laparoscopic hysterectomy, the surgeon cuts the uterus into smaller pieces and removes them through the small incisions.
While a subtotal hysterectomy is considered to be relatively safe, there still are some risks. A woman can develop blood clots or infection after the surgery. There also is the risk of excessive bleeding or injury to the surrounding organs and tissues.
If a woman has her ovaries removed, she will enter into menopause. Even if a woman keeps her ovaries during the surgery, she might enter into menopause earlier than other women. Everyone who has had a hysterectomy should have regular pelvic exams and mammograms. Women who have had subtotal hysterectomies should also have regular Pap tests.