If you require the services of an interpreter, contact us on 020 3447 9411. We will do our best to meet your needs.
1. Introduction 3
2. What does total laparoscopic hysterectomy mean? 3
3. How can a total laparoscopic hysterectomy help? 4
4. What are the risks of total laparoscopic hysterectomy? 5
5. What will happen if I choose not to have a total laparoscopic hysterectomy? 12
6. What alternatives are available? 13
7. How should I prepare for a total laparoscopic hysterectomy? 15
8. Asking for consent 18
9. What happens during a total laparoscopic hysterectomy? 19
10. What should I expect after total laparoscopic hysterectomy? 20
11. Where can I get more information? 23
12. References 23
13. Contact details 26
14. How to find us 27
Prolapse is a condition where the womb or vaginal walls drop down from their normal position. You may feel that ‘something is coming down’ in the pelvis or have symptoms of a lump or bulge in the vagina. Prolapse can sometimes affect how your bladder or bowels work.
This leaflet provides information about an operation called total laparoscopic hysterectomy. It is one of the operations that we offer to treat prolapse of the womb. This leaflet has been made to help you understand why this operation has been recommended and what surgery might involve.
This leaflet contains information from medical research studies and guidance from independent organisations that specialise in this type of surgery. We have tried to simplify this information and make it easy to understand for patients. We hope that this leaflet will help you decide if you want to go ahead with surgery.
We will review this information every two years. This is to make sure that any information from new research studies is included. We may do this sooner if we think important new information becomes available that you need to be aware of.
2 What does total laparoscopic hysterectomy mean?
Total laparoscopic hysterectomy is an operation that removes the womb using keyhole surgery. ‘Laparoscopy’ is the medical term for keyhole surgery through the abdomen. The surgery is
performed through four or five tiny cuts, rather than one much larger cut. During total laparoscopic hysterectomy, a small camera transmits video pictures from inside you on to television
screens. Your surgeons watch these screens and operate using special instruments.
During surgery, the womb is disconnected from its blood vessels and the ligaments that hold it in place. The womb is then removed through the vagina and the end of the vagina is then repaired using stitches.
3 How can a total laparoscopic hysterectomy help?
If you have symptoms of womb prolapse, this operation is likely to help you. Unfortunately, no operation will work for everybody. Even though the womb has been removed and the vagina repaired, prolapse may continue to be a problem after surgery. This is because the vagina may prolapse, even after the womb has been removed. Sometimes, surgery works well initially but the problems start again some time later.
The most reliable medical research studies (called randomised trials) have shown that one year after hysterectomy for prolapse, most women are satisfied:
- Around 85 out of 100 women who have surgery will have no symptoms of prolapse.
Other types of research have continued to monitor patients for longer after surgery. After five years, around 80 out of 100 women still have no symptoms.
If you also have problems with urinary leakage, having a hysterectomy for your prolapse may help. Leakage on coughing, sneezing, or activity, is known as ‘stress urinary incontinence’. Having to suddenly rush to the toilet to pass urine is known as ‘urinary urgency’. Sometimes urine may leak out on the way to the toilet. Although things may improve after surgery, we are not sure how often things get better. If you have difficulty emptying your bladder, surgery may help, but not everyone sees improvements.
If you have bowel symptoms as well as prolapse, your bowels are likely to be the same after surgery as they were before. There is a chance that things might improve after hysterectomy but we are not sure how often this happens.
In most hospitals, if you have a womb prolapse and request a hysterectomy, the surgery will be performed through the vagina. The womb is cut away, removed through the vagina, and the end of the vagina is repaired with stitches. At University College Hospital, we specialise in keyhole surgery. We think that performing the operation using keyhole surgery, rather than through the vagina, may have some advantages.
Using modern equipment and instruments, we get a very good view inside your abdomen. This might reduce the risk of damaging other organs during surgery. If you have had previous pelvic surgery, this might be particularly important.
In addition to a better view during surgery, there may be other benefits. We perform a ‘high uterosacral ligament suspension’ at the end of a total laparoscopic hysterectomy. This means that extra stitches are placed between the end of the vagina and the pelvic ligaments. These stitches are put in to try and prevent vaginal prolapse in the future. Although similar stitches can be put in during vaginal hysterectomy, they cannot normally be placed as high up. This might mean that the final result of vaginal hysterectomy may not be as good. This is because the end of the vagina is not lifted up as high.
Although we are specialists in keyhole surgery, you should consider all of the available options to treat your prolapse. We cannot be sure that using keyhole surgery through the abdomen is better than vaginal surgery. This is because medical research studies have not yet compared these different types of surgery head-to-head.
4 What are the risks of total laparoscopic hysterectomy?
All treatments and procedures have risks and we will talk to you about the risks of total laparoscopic hysterectomy. Problems that occur during or after surgery are called complications. These are undesirable or unwanted effects that happen as a result of surgery. If a complication affects you, it does not mean that something must have gone wrong during the surgery. If you have a complication, you can expect us to explain what has happened, and whether any further treatment is required. We always provide additional care and support for patients who experience problems after an operation.
We will use numbers to explain how often we might expect problems to happen after total laparoscopic hysterectomy. For example, a ‘10 in 100’ chance of a problem means that if we performed 100 operations, the problem would happen 10 times. This is the same as a 10 per cent chance.
Because laparoscopic hysterectomy is not commonly performed for prolapse, the risk of some complications is not clear. Complications relating to how the bladder and bowel work after surgery are particularly uncertain. Where there are no research studies to guide us, we have used risks associated with vaginal hysterectomy. This is because many of the complications of the two operations are probably similar.
Problems that may happen straight away
Bleeding during surgery
- Bleeding that might need a blood transfusion: 1 in 100.
Infections after surgery
- Urine infection immediately after surgery: 10 in 100.
- An infection of the small ‘keyhole surgery’ wounds: 1 in 100.
- Infection inside the pelvis or in the vagina: 1-5 in 100.
Damage to other organs during surgery
Damage to bladder, bowel or ureters: 1 in 100.
The ureters are the tiny tubes that carry urine from the kidneys to the bladder.
If you are affected, the damaged organs will be repaired during the operation. Sometimes a cut on your abdomen called a laparotomy is needed in order to fix things. If you have had previous abdominal or pelvic surgery the risk of damage may be higher.
Rarely, damage might occur that is not recognised during the operation. If this happened, you might experience no symptoms, or you could become ill after your surgery. You would need extra tests to find out if this was the case. You might need another operation to repair the damage.
Bladder symptoms after surgery
Some women have bladder symptoms as well as prolapse. Although some symptoms may improve after surgery, a small number of women will find that things get worse.
These problems might include:
- New or worsening stress urinary incontinence: 10-15 in 100.
- New or worsening urinary urgency: 5 in 100.
- New or worsening problems with bladder emptying: 1-5 in 100.
Bowel symptoms after surgery
Some women have bowel symptoms as well as prolapse. Most will find that after surgery, things are the same as before. Some women report improvements after their operation. Sadly, a small minority of women might find that things get worse.
These problems might include:
- New or worsening constipation: 5 in 100.
- Other new or worsening bowel symptoms, including difficulty
emptying the bowels, having to rush to the toilet without
warning, or bowel leakage: 1-5 in 100.
Pelvic pain or problems with painful sexual intercourse
If you do not have problems with pelvic pain or painful sexual intercourse before surgery, it is unlikely that you will have problems afterwards. The risk of developing problems is low:
- New or worsening pelvic pain: 1-5 in 100.
- New or worsening painful sexual intercourse: 5-10 in 100.
If you already experience chronic pain in other areas of the body, the risk of pain after surgery is higher.
Problems that may happen later
Your prolapse might come back
Whilst the womb has been removed and cannot prolapse again, there is a risk that the vaginal walls might prolapse again. This can happen even if you had surgery to repair the vaginal walls
at the time of your hysterectomy.
Five years after the surgery, 20 in 100 women would be expected to have problems with vaginal prolapse. If you were affected you may need further treatment.
Problems that are rare, but serious
- Damage to major blood vessels and life-threatening bleeding: 1 in 1000.
- Blood clots in the legs that can travel to the lungs: 5 in 1000
Problems with the anaesthetic
You will be given a general anaesthetic for your operation. This means that you will be unconscious and will not feel anything during your surgery. Anaesthetists are doctors who specialise in anaesthetics. Your anaesthetist will give you your anaesthetic medication and gently place a tube through your mouth into your throat. This is to keep your windpipe open so oxygen can get to your lungs.
Some problems are very common after an anaesthetic. They normally settle down very quickly after surgery or are easy to treat. Sore throat or throat pain, feeling sick and vomiting, or shivering after surgery, can affect up to half of patients.
Some problems are more likely to affect certain groups of patients. If you are older, overweight, a smoker, or have other medical problems, you are more likely to be affected:
- Chest infection after surgery: 1-10 in 100.
- Permanent nerve damage: 1 in 1000.
- Permanent loss of sight: 1 in 100,000.
- Death as a result of anaesthesia: 1 in 100,000.
Older patients, especially those with dementia, poor eyesight or hearing, can become confused after an operation. It is not known how often this happens.
Damage to the lips and tongue may occur but this is usually minor. Tooth damage is more likely to happen if you have diseased teeth and gums, or have had extensive dental work:
- Damage to the lips and tongue: 5 in 100.
- Damage to teeth: 5 in 10,000.
Some problems can happen to anyone as a result of an anaesthetic:
- The eyeball getting grazed or damaged: 4 in 10,000.
- Being aware of what is happening during surgery despite the anaesthetic: 5 in 100,000.
- Life-threatening allergic reaction: 1 in 10,000.
5 What will happen if I choose not to have total laparoscopic hysterectomy?
If you decide not to have this operation you could simply carry on as you are. You will continue to have symptoms of prolapse.
Whilst these symptoms can be distressing, you are unlikely to come to any harm.
6 What alternatives are available?
After reading this leaflet, you may decide that you want to look at other options. We provide a separate leaflet on the available treatments for prolapse and we should have given you this to
read. Please ask for this leaflet if you do not already have it.
The alternatives to total laparoscopic hysterectomy are:
- Pelvic floor physiotherapy.
- A vaginal pessary.
- Laparoscopic mesh sacrohysteropexy.
- Laparoscopic suture hysteropexy.
- Sacrospinous hysteropexy.
Sometimes your doctor may suggest that one treatment might be better than another in your particular case. They will obviously provide you with the reasons why this is so.
7 How should I prepare for total laparoscopic hysterectomy?
The Preoperative Assessment Clinic (PAC)
Before your operation, you will be seen in the PAC to make sure that you are fit for your surgery. Specialist nurses and anaesthetists run the clinic. This normally happens a few weeks before your operation. When you come to your appointment, you should bring the following:
- A list of your medical conditions and previous operations.
- A list of your current medications and allergies.
Sometimes, certain types of medication need to be stopped before your operation. The team in PAC will tell you if any of your medication needs to be stopped and which ones you should take on the day of your operation.
Please do not stop any medication before your operation unless you are asked to do so. Stopping important medication before your surgery may mean that your operation is cancelled or you come to harm.
Some patients may need to take additional medication the day before their surgery to clear their bowels. This is called ‘bowel preparation’. Not all patients require bowel preparation and if is
needed, we will discuss it with you before your operation.
The day of your surgery
On the day of surgery, you will come to the Surgical Reception on the First Floor of University College Hospital at 07:00 in the morning. You will receive a letter confirming these details. Your
operating surgeons will see you for final checks. Please note that your operating surgeon may not be the same specialist as you saw in clinic. The nurses will then prepare you for your surgery. You may be given an enema to clear out the lower bowel before your operation. You will not need this if you took bowel preparation.
On the day of surgery, you should follow the instructions given to you at the PAC appointment about the following:
- Which medications to take on the morning of surgery.
- When to stop eating and drinking before your surgery.
If you are confused about any of the instructions, you must contact them before your surgery. Their details are at the end of this leaflet.
- Bring your regular medications along with you.
- Pack a bag with clothes and toiletries for your stay.
- Bring the copy of your consent form that we gave you.
Please be aware that your surgeons will be operating through the day until 19:00. They are often unable to leave the operating theatre between patients. For this reason, they see all patients in the morning, even if surgery is planned for later in the day.
If your surgery is in the afternoon, you may be allowed to drink some water. You might also be able to leave the Surgical Reception for a little while until you are due for surgery. Please do not drink, or leave the Surgical Reception, until instructed to do so. Drinking at the wrong time may mean that your operation is cancelled.
There is a very small chance that your surgery may be cancelled on the day you come in to hospital. This might happen because the hospital is full and there is no bed for you. This is uncommon but obviously very distressing if it occurs.
Whilst beds often become available as the day passes, this is not always the case. If it looks like your surgery will have to be cancelled, we will let you know as early as we can. We will then work with our management team to rearrange your surgery as soon as possible.
Making plans for after your surgery
Please make plans well in advance:
- You will be in hospital for one or two nights. Up to two people can visit you in hospital between 09:00 and 20:00 every day.
- Please ensure that your travel plans are flexible. Remember that your stay might also be extended on medical grounds.
- You will need an escort to help you get home and you will not be able to use public transport to get home alone.
- You will need four weeks off work. If you have a very strenuous job you may need slightly longer to recover.
- You should avoid carrying anything heavier than 5kg during this time.
- You will need friends and family to help with groceries and household chores, particularly in the first week or two.
Unfortunately, we will be unable to extend your hospital stay if you have not made transport arrangements. If you already use hospital transport because of a medical illness, we will be able to help arrange this. Unfortunately, hospital transport is not available for other patients.
8 Asking for your consent
We want to involve you in all the decisions about your care and treatment. If you decide to go ahead with treatment, by law we must ask for your consent and will ask you to sign a consent form. This confirms that you agree to have the procedure and understand what it involves. Staff will explain all the risks, benefits and alternatives before they ask you to sign a consent form. If you are unsure about any aspect of your proposed treatment, please ask to speak with a senior member of staff again. Our contact details are at the end of this leaflet.
9 What happens during a total laparoscopic hysterectomy?
The operation takes around two hours and is performed using ‘keyhole surgery’.
- Before we start your hysterectomy, we may put two ‘ureteric catheters’ into the ureters. These are tubes that protect the ureters during surgery. The ureters are the tiny tubes that carry urine from the kidneys to the bladder. A tiny camera, called a cystoscope, is inserted into the bladder to do this.
- Four or five small cuts are then made on the abdomen and special tubes, known as ‘ports’, are placed through these cuts.
- A tiny camera and special operating instruments are inserted through the ports.
- Pictures of the inside of the abdomen are sent from the camera to television screens that the surgeons watch.
- The ligaments that hold the womb in place, and blood vessels that supply the womb, are cut.
- The womb is then disconnected from the end of the vagina. This is done by making a cut around the end of the vagina, just below the neck of the womb.
- The womb is taken out through the vagina and the end of the vagina is repaired using stitches. To try and stop the vagina prolapsing in the future, the end of the vagina is then stitched
to ligaments in the pelvis.
- You will have a drip in your hand and a catheter tube in the bladder. These will normally be removed within 24 hours.
Some women have prolapse of the vaginal walls, as well as prolapse of the womb. If you were affected by vaginal prolapse, you may need an operation on the vagina at the same time as your hysterectomy.
If we think you might also need a vaginal operation, we will talk to you about this before surgery. We will also provide you with extra written information about vaginal surgery. Sometimes we
cannot make the final decision about whether a vaginal operation will be needed until during your operation.
10 What should I expect after total laparoscopic hysterectomy?
The first two weeks after surgery
- You will need to rest and take regular painkillers.
- You should take regular medicine, known as a laxative, to keep your bowels opening every day.
- You will spend much of your time at home but you may take short walks. You should avoid anything strenuous and lifting anything heavier than 5kg.
- You should try to shower, rather than have a bath, to allow the keyhole stitches to heal. If you do take a bath, do so in shallow water for a maximum of ten minutes.
- You can remove the plasters from the keyhole scars after three days and then keep the areas clean and dry.
- You will receive a telephone clinic appointment through the post. This is normally scheduled for two to three weeks after surgery. The urogynaecology nurses will call you by phone on this day to check on your progress.
We will give you a two-week supply of painkillers, laxative medication, and any other drugs you will need at home. If you need further supplies after you have gone home, you will need to contact your GP.
Weeks two to four after surgery
- You will be able to reduce your regular painkillers, start taking them only if needed, and eventually stop using them.
- You will continue to use your laxatives to keep your bowels opening daily. If you can do this by eating plenty of fruit and fibre, and drinking enough water, you can stop the laxatives.
- You can increase your activity, go out for longer walks, and visit friends and family, provided you take things easy.
- You will continue to avoid lifting anything heavier than 5kg.
- You can start driving again but you should inform your insurance company that you have had surgery. They must be happy for you to drive again. You should only start driving
again if you feel safe to do so. You must be able to perform an emergency stop if needed.
- If you have a period, please use pads rather than tampons.
Four weeks onwards
- You can get back into your normal routine and return to work. If you have a strenuous job, you may need slightly longer to recover. Please let us know if this is the case.
- If you exercised regularly before your surgery, please discuss this with us before you go home. We might suggest some changes to your usual exercise programme.
- You can start having sexual intercourse after six weeks.
- We will send you a clinic appointment through the post for three months after your surgery. At the appointment, we will ask you how things are and examine you. This is to make sure hat the operation has worked and that you do not have any problems.
11 Where can I get more information?
The British Society of Urogynaecology
Telephone: 020 7772 6211
Fax: 020 7772 6410
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence
Telephone: 030 0323 0140
Fax: 030 0323 0748
The International Urogynecological Association
Email at: www.iuga.org/general/?type=CONTACT
UCLH cannot accept responsibility for information provided by
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13 Contact details
Urogynaecology nursing team
(For medical problems and questions only)
|Direct line:||020 3447 6547|
|020 3447 6590
Gynaecology outpatient appointments
(Contact for outpatient clinic appointments only)
|Direct line:||020 3447 9411|
|Fax:||020 3447 6590|
Preoperative Assessment Clinic (PAC)
(Contact for questions about PAC only)
|Direct line:||020 3447 3167|
|Fax:||020 3383 3415|
(Contact for surgery dates and scheduling only)
|Direct line:||020 3447 2504|
|Direct line:||020 3447 2516|
|Fax:||020 3447 9775|
University College Hospital
Switchboard: 020 3456 7890
14 How to find us
The Urogynaecology and Pelvic Floor Unit
Clinic 2, Lower Ground Floor
Elizabeth Garrett Anderson (EGA) Wing
University College Hospital
25 Grafton Way