The Partial Truth

A recent study finds that women who have hysterectomies as treatment for conditions that are benign fare the same no matter whether they have a partial or a total hysterectomy. Previous studies have shown that partial hysterectomies, in which the neck of the uterus is left intact, are quite popular in the United States as well as all over the globe and became so during the 1990's. In a total hysterectomy, the entire uterus is removed. But the partial hysterectomy leaves the cervix untouched.

The majority of hysterectomy surgeries are performed to treat uterine fibroids, no matter whether the type of hysterectomy is partial or total. While in many women, these fibroids cause no symptoms; in others the benign tumors can cause severe pain, heavy, lengthy bleeding, infertility, and chronic pelvic pain or pressure.

Less Invasive

Physicians believe that the popularity of the partial hysterectomy is due to many factors. For one thing, many women believe that the partial hysterectomy will leave them with better quality of life. Also, some women believe that the partial procedure is less invasive. Two Scandinavian studies performed during the 1980's suggested this idea and posited that if a procedure were less invasive there might also be improved psychological and sexual outcomes over time. These studies were cited by the lead author of the current study, Dr. Par Persson from Uppsala University Hospital in Sweden.

Persson says that partial hysterectomies may not succeed in treating uterine fibroids as well as the total hysterectomy. Leaving the cervix intact may mean that bleeding related to fibroid production can still occur. Taking this fact into account, Persson's team decided to see if partial hysterectomies offer any measurable advantages over the total hysterectomy procedure.  

Persson and his colleague observed 179 hysterectomy patients for one year and discovered that no matter what type of hysterectomy procedure had been performed, the patients improved at about the same rate. The results of the study have been published in the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology (BJOG).

Psychological Health

In the partial hysterectomy group, there were 94 participants, while there were 85 participants in the total hysterectomy group. All of the women were examined prior to surgery, half a year later, and one year post-surgery. At each examination, the women were given four tests to assess their psychological health. Included in the tests were questions that had been crafted to measure signs of anxiety and depression.

Both groups were seen to have similar scores before surgery. Both groups improved after surgery to a similar extent when observed over the course of a year. The only significant difference between these groups was in the complaint of continued bleeding as much as a year after surgery for a number of the women in the partial hysterectomy group. This is in comparison with only one woman from the total hysterectomy group with this same complaint.

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