Portrait of Nathaniel Scharping
Author
Nathaniel Scharping
Portrait of Anna Funk, PhD
Reviewer
Anna Funk, PhD

Whether it’s an , an endometrial ablation or a , you’ve probably never heard of most gynecological surgeries. And that’s okay! Medical terms like these aren’t something you’re supposed to be familiar with. However, more than a million people1 have a gynecological surgery every year.

 

Many gynecological surgeries are minor procedures that allow doctors to diagnose potential issues or remove abnormal tissues. And the risks associated with most of these procedures are relatively small. If you’re considering gynecological surgery, or just curious about your reproductive health, here’s some helpful background information.

What is gynecological surgery?

A gynecological surgery is any procedure involving the reproductive organs such as the , cervix and . Gynecological surgeries often address issues of fertility or medical issues specific to people with uteruses, such as or cervical cancer.

 

As with any surgery, procedures involving reproductive organs carry risk. However, most of these risks are minor. Your medical provider should explain them to you thoroughly before any operation.

Types of gynecological surgeries

There are many different types of gynecological surgeries; most are minor though some are more involved. In some cases, there are multiple surgical options doctors might recommend to address the same issue. Read on to learn about some of the more common procedures.

Oophorectomy

During an , a surgeon removes one (unilateral) or both (bilateral) of your . It’s commonly done to help lower the risk of cancer in people who are predisposed to breast or ovarian cancer. When done to reduce cancer risk, an is often combined with a salpingectomy, or the removal of the fallopian tubes.

 

In people with a family history of breast cancer, such as those with a mutation to the BRCA s, removing the and fallopian tubes can lower cancer risk by nearly 50 percent.2 Doctors might also recommend an to treat conditions like endometriosis or a twisted ovary.

 

The surgery usually involves a few small incisions to insert surgical tools. An is a relatively major procedure. Removing both will cause the onset of — no matter what age you are — and permanent . Outside of those major effects, the risks of the surgery aren’t very high. However, you should definitely talk the decision over with your doctor if an is something you may need to think about.

Hysterectomy

A is a surgery to remove your . It is a major operation that’s usually only performed as a last resort to treat a few different kinds of gynecological issues. After a , you cannot get pregnant and your menstrual periods will stop.

 

Hysterectomies are sometimes recommended to treat cancers of the reproductive system, , , severe bleeding, and more. There are other options, like endometrial ablations, for treating many of these conditions; therefore a isn’t always necessary.

 

A can be either total, involving the full removal of your , or partial, leaving your cervix in place. Hysterectomies are also sometimes combined with other surgeries like oophorectomies.

 

Hysterectomies are relatively safe overall, but risks include excess bleeding, blood clots and infection, as well as damage to your urinary tract, bladder, rectum or other parts of the pelvis.

Fibroid surgeries ()

Fibroids are non-cancerous tumors that grow in and around your . They’re quite common. Many people with uteruses will get  at some point in their lives.

 

But sometimes, can cause symptoms like painful periods, heavy menstrual bleeding, difficulty urinating and more. In those cases, there are a few minimally invasive options.

 

Read more: What Causes ?

 

One noninvasive option is ultrasound, where a surgeon uses sound waves to break down the growths, guided by an MRI machine. Doctors may also use surgical tools to cut out or heat from inside your to remove them. In more serious cases, a hysterectomy to remove the might be something your doctor recommends — but only as a last resort.

Endometrial ablation

An endometrial ablation is a procedure to remove the , the lining of the . It’s performed with thin tools inserted into your . There are a few different methods for this procedure.

 

The most common reason for an endometrial ablation is to treat abnormally heavy bleeding during periods. In some cases, excessive bleeding can even cause anemia.

 

Because an endometrial ablation removes the lining of the , which is where a fertilized egg implants and grows, pregnancy after the procedure is highly unlikely. Endometrial ablation can be done using a variety of methods, such as using heat, electricity, high-frequency radio waves, or microwaves to destroy the .

 

The procedure is not very risky, but watch out for bleeding or infection afterwards. Additionally, you should keep using even after an endometrial ablation: while it’s rare, there is a small chance of pregnancy after the procedure. These pregnancies are much more risky for your health.

Tubal ligation

A tubal ligation involves cutting, tying, or otherwise blocking the fallopian tubes, preventing eggs from reaching the , or sperm swimming to meet an egg. You might also hear it called “getting your tubes tied.”

 

A tubal ligation permanently prevents pregnancy. Some people choose to have it done if they don’t want any more children. Evidence from some studies shows it can reduce the risk of ovarian cancer, as well.3

 

The surgery is done by making one or more small incisions and inserting thin surgical tools to cut or block the fallopian tubes. While the procedure can be reversed, it doesn’t always restore fertility. The chance of getting pregnant after having a tubal ligation undone range from under 50 percent to around 85 percent, with younger people having the best odds.4

Other gynecological surgeries and procedures

There are a number of other procedures involving the and related reproductive organs. Many are quick and don’t require any anesthesia.

Colposcopy

A colposcopy is an exploratory procedure done with a tool called a colposcope. It’s typically used to follow up on an abnormal Pap smear and the procedure lets your doctor examine your cervix up close to see if any cells might become cancerous.

Cervical biopsy

A cervical biopsy is done to sample cells from the cervix for testing, or to remove tissues that are cancerous or may become cancerous. Your doctor will use a tool to either scrape or cut cells from your cervix during the operation.

Trachelectomy

A trachelectomy is the removal of the cervix, the opening to your . It’s typically used as an alternative to a in women with cervical cancer, as it can allow them to have children later on.5

Removal of ovarian cysts

Ovarian cysts are fluid-filled growths on your , and they’re not always dangerous. But if cysts cause pain or other issues, your doctor might opt to remove them. This can be done with a laparoscope, a thin tool inserted through a small cut in the abdomen.

Dilation and curettage

This procedure involves dilating the cervix and using a spoon-shaped instrument called a curette to scrape tissues from your . The minimally-invasive procedure can be used to retrieve samples for tests, or to clear the of tissues after a miscarriage or abortion.

Cervical cryosurgery

This quick surgery uses very cold liquid nitrogen to remove abnormal cells from the cervix.

The more you know

You’re not alone if you don’t know your trachelectomies from your colposcopies. We’re here to help. Check out adyn’s blog, Mind the Gap, for more resources and articles.

References

  1. Oliphant, S. S., Jones, K. A., Wang, L., Bunker, C. H., & Lowder, J. L. (2010). Trends over time with commonly performed obstetric and gynecologic inpatient procedures. Obstetrics & Gynecology, 116(4), 926–931. https://doi.org/10.1097/aog.0b013e3181f38599 (Conservative estimate based on 50 M women had gynecological surgeries, data gathered over 27 years)
  2. Eleje, G. U., Eke, A. C., Ezebialu, I. U., Ikechebelu, J. I., Ugwu, E. O., & Okonkwo, O. O. (2016). Risk-reducing bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy in women with BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutations. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, 12(CD012464). https://doi.org/10.1002/14651858.cd012464 “The risk reduction of breast cancer is estimated to be 94% to 95% when BRRM is performed, nearly 89% in patients who received BRRM plus RRSO, and 46% when RRSO alone is carried out,”
  3. Cibula, D., Widschwendter, M., Majek, O., & Dusek, L. (2010). Tubal ligation and the risk of ovarian cancer: review and meta-analysis. Human Reproduction Update, 17(1), 55–67. https://doi.org/10.1093/humupd/dmq030
  4. Hanafi, M. M. (2003). Factors affecting the pregnancy rate after microsurgical reversal of tubal ligation. Fertility and Sterility, 80(2), 434–440. https://doi.org/10.1016/s0015-0282(03)00661-7
  5. Tanguay, C., Plante, M., Renaud, M., Roy, M., & Têtu, B. (2004). Vaginal radical trachelectomy in the treatment of cervical cancer: The role of frozen section. International Journal of Gynecological Pathology23(2), 170-175. https://journals.lww.com/intjgynpathology/Abstract/2004/04000/V