The lower portion of a woman’s uterus is known as the cervix.(1) A full hysterectomy excises this area completely, while a partial or supracervical hysterectomy leaves it in. In cases where a partial hysterectomy patient is being treated for cancer, they will remain at risk of cervical cancer.
The need for a partial hysterectomy is determined by a number of different medical methods. These include a pap smear, which finds cervical abnormalities; an endometrial biopsy, which can find problems in a woman’s uterine lining; and a pelvic ultrasound.
A partial hysterectomy takes between one and two hours to complete, and involves a patient being fully anesthetized. It is completely normal for a patient to experience a bloody, vaginal discharge for several days after the operation, requiring the use of standard sanitary pads.
The relative number of partial hysterectomies in the United States has been increasing steadily over the past couple of decades, in part because the post-op life of such a patient is better than one who has undergone the full procedure.(2) If medically possible, women are opting for the less invasive of the two procedures.
Research by Scandinavian scientists has found that women with partial hysterectomies have a better chance of resuming a healthy sex life. At the same time, the study found no real difference in terms of a patient’s post-op mental outlook. Women who had undergone full hysterectomies were as likely to be happy and optimistic as those who had had but a partial one.
However, another finding of this touchstone research points up a major potential drawback of partial hysterectomies. While only one of the women who had undergone a full hysterectomy reported regular bleeding one year after the operation, a full twenty percent of partial hysterectomy patients in the study said that was a problem for them. This concern is indeed one of the main reasons women opt sometimes in the first place for a full, rather than partial, operation.
(1) Mayo Clinic – Abdominal Hysterectomy, Retrieved July 10, 2011 from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/hysterectomy/MY00163/DSECTION=what-you-can-expect
(2) Reuters – “Well-Being Similar After Total or Partial Hysterectomy”, February 5, 2010, Retrieved July 10, 2011, from http://www.reuters.com/article/2010/02/05/us-health-hysterectomy-idUSTRE6144XC20100205