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Complications of Hysterectomy

Clarke-Pearson, Daniel L., MD; Geller, Elizabeth J., MD

doi: 10.1097/AOG.0b013e3182841594
Clinical Expert Series
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Spanish Translation

Hysterectomy is the most common gynecologic procedure performed in the United States, with more than 600,000 procedures performed each year. Complications of hysterectomy vary based on route of surgery and surgical technique. The objective of this article is to review risk factors associated with specific types of complications associated with benign hysterectomy, methods to prevent and recognize complications, and appropriate management of complications. The most common complications of hysterectomy can be categorized as infectious, venous thromboembolic, genitourinary (GU) and gastrointestinal (GI) tract injury, bleeding, nerve injury, and vaginal cuff dehiscence. Infectious complications after hysterectomy are most common, ranging from 10.5% for abdominal hysterectomy to 13.0% for vaginal hysterectomy and 9.0% for laparoscopic hysterectomy. Venous thromboembolism is less common, ranging from a clinical diagnosis rate of 1% to events detected by more sensitive laboratory methods of up to 12%. Injury to the GU tract is estimated to occur at a rate of 1–2% for all major gynecologic surgeries, with 75% of these injuries occurring during hysterectomy. Injury to the GI tract after hysterectomy is less common, with a range of 0.1–1%. Bleeding complications after hysterectomy also are rare, with a median range of estimated blood loss of 238–660.5 mL for abdominal hysterectomy, 156–568 mL for laparoscopic hysterectomy, and 215–287 mL for vaginal hysterectomy, with transfusion only being more likely after laparoscopic compared to vaginal hysterectomy (odds ratio 2.07, confidence interval 1.12–3.81). Neuropathy after hysterectomy is a rare but significant event, with a rate of 0.2–2% after major pelvic surgery. Vaginal cuff dehiscence is estimated at a rate of 0.39%, and it is more common after total laparoscopic hysterectomy (1.35%) compared with laparoscopic-assisted vaginal hysterectomy (0.28%), total abdominal hysterectomy (0.15%), and total vaginal hysterectomy (0.08%). With an emphasis on optimizing surgical technique, recognition of surgical complications, and timely management, we aim to minimize risk for women undergoing hysterectomy.

Hysterectomy may be associated with several complications, including infection, thromboembolism, genitourinary and gastrointestinal tract injury, bleeding, neuropathy, and vaginal cuff dehiscence.

Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

Corresponding author: Daniel L. Clarke-Pearson, MD, CB #7570, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC 27514; e-mail:

Financial Disclosure The authors did not report any potential conflicts of interest.

Continuing medical education for this article is available at

© 2013 by The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Published by Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc. All rights reserved.