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Hysterectomy and Medical Negligence

Hysterectomy and Medical Negligence

Every year, the NHS performs around 40,000 hysterectomy operations, making it a particularly common procedure in the UK. More often than not, these operations are carried out without complication, and a woman will make a slow but steady recovery. However, sadly there are times when mistakes are made, leaving a patient to face serious complications.

What is a Hysterectomy and why is it Necessary?

A hysterectomy is a major operation which removes the womb. This may be a necessary form of treatment if a woman is suffering from:-

  • Heavy periods (menorrhagia);
  • Chronic pelvic pain;
  • Uterine fibroids (non-cancerous tumours);
  • Cancer of the ovaries, womb, cervix or fallopian tubes.

There are different types of hysterectomy, with the appropriate option depending upon a woman's condition. For example, a total hysterectomy removes the womb and the cervix, leaving the ovaries in place. This is the most commonly performed type of operation, and is recommended as long as there is not possibility of ovarian cancer developing. On the other hand, if the ovaries are causing (or expect to cause) health problems, or if a woman is already at menopausal age, a total hysterectomy with bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy may be suggested. This removes the womb, cervix, fallopian tubes and the ovaries.

How is a Hysterectomy Performed?

A hysterectomy can be performed in one of three ways:-

1. Vaginal hysterectomy

A vaginal hysterectomy is the most recommended type of procedure, as it is less invasive and has a shorter recovery time. It involves a small hole being made in the top of the vagina, through which the womb and the cervix are removed. The incision is then stitched back up.

2. Abdominal hysterectomy

An abdominal hysterectomy may be necessary if it is not possible to remove the womb through the vagina, perhaps because it is enlarged by fibroids or pelvic tumours. The operation involves an incision being made across your abdomen, thereby allowing the womb to be removed.

3. Laparoscopic hysterectomy

Laparoscopic hysterectomy is a form of keyhole surgery. While it is less invasive than the other two options, it is only used when the other methods are not suitable, as there are more risks involved. A small tube with a camera on the end is inserted into the abdomen via a small cut, allowing the surgeon to see the internal organs. A series of incisions are then made to the abdomen or vagina, through which instruments are inserted and the womb removed.

Hysterectomy Complications and Medical Negligence

There are a number of complications that can arise as a result of a hysterectomy. These include the following:-

  • Haemorrhage (heavy bleeding);
  • Damage to the bowel and/or bladder during surgery;
  • Infection;
  • Thrombosis
  • Ovary failure;
  • Early menopause;
  • Vaginal problems eg. a slow healing wound, or a future prolapse.

These are all known risks of hysterectomy, many of which are unavoidable. Before your operation, medical staff should inform you of these potential problems, allowing you to consent to surgery with all the necessary information.

However, there are times when complications during or after a hysterectomy are the direct result of medical errors. In particular, medical staff fail to recognise damage sustained to the bowel or bladder during surgery which, if left untreated, will cause serious harm to a patient. In such an event, it may be possible to make a medical negligence claim. A solicitor will be able to give you more information, but if successful, you could be awarded compensation.

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