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Side effects of surgery

After a hysterectomy some women experience the following side effects:

  • Pain: You will be given pain relief medication through an intravenous drip or an epidural (an injection of drugs into the spine) and medication to take for pain when you go home. Let your doctor or nurse know when you feel uncomfortable – don’t wait until the pain becomes severe.
  • Tiredness: You will be able to go home after the stitches or clips are taken out. However, it may take up to three months before you feel fully recovered from the surgery.
  • Bladder and bowel problems: If you’ve had a radical hysterectomy you may have difficulty emptying your bladder for a few weeks. You may also have constipation. While these problems will go away with time, your doctor or nurse can help you deal with them.
  • Lymph fluid build-up: If you have had your lymph glands removed (lymphadenectomy), your legs may swell because your lymphatic system is not working properly. This is called lymphoedema. Lymphoedema symptoms may not appear for over two years after surgery. Swelling may be reduced with gentle massage toward your heart, special compression garments and gentle exercises, which may be recommended by a physiotherapist specialising in lymphoedema.
  • Not able to become pregnant: If you have a hysterectomy, you will not be able to become pregnant. For more information see Effects on fertility.
  • Menopause: If you had both ovaries removed and were not menopausal before the surgery, the removal of your ovaries will cause menopause. Hot flushes and other symptoms of menopause caused by surgery may be more severe than those caused by natural menopause. Some drugs have been shown to help with these symptoms, and they may be more effective if started before surgery.
  • Effects on your sex life: The physical and emotional changes you experience may also affect how you feel about sex and how you respond sexually.
  • Adhesions. Adhesions, or internal scar tissue that glues together parts of the small or large intestine, may form. Sometimes this can be painful. Adhesions to the bowel or bladder may need to be treated with further surgery.
  • Wound infection: Infection is not common but if it occurs, antibiotic therapy will be required and the wound may need to be drained.
  • Wound dehiscence: Rarely, the tissues do not heal rapidly and the outside of the wound may open up. This will require a return to theatre for re-suturing, or prolonged dressings (often after discharge) to assist healing.
  • Wound hernia: This is rare. It can occur at any time after the procedure and may require surgery at a later date.