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Are Women Undergoing Unnecessary Hysterectomies

Hysterectomy, a procedure in which the uterus is removed, is the second most common surgery among female patients. However, according to a new study, an estimated 20 percent of the surgeries may not be medically necessary.

While the rates of hysterectomy have fallen in recent years, more than 400,000 hysterectomies are still performed annually in the United States. Concerns about whether the medical procedure is clinically appropriate in light of the patient’s condition also remain.

As the researchers highlight, almost 70 percent of hysterectomies are intended to treat benign conditions, such as abnormal uterine bleeding, uterine fibroids, and endometriosis. Guidelines from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists state that doctors should recommend that patients with benign gynecologic conditions try alternative treatments, such as hormonal therapies and endometrial ablation, prior to undergoing hysterectomy. However, this does not always occur in practice.

To determine how well health care providers adhere to the guidelines, the researchers studied the medical records of 3,397 women who underwent a hysterectomy for benign gynecological disease. As detailed by Medical News Today, the study revealed that 37.7 percent of the patients were not offered alternative treatment prior to undergoing a hysterectomy.

The researchers also found that pathological findings following surgery among 18.3 percent of women did not support the need for a hysterectomy. Even more concerning, the rate of unnecessary surgery was higher in women under 40, who may have wanted to have children. According to the study, 37.8 percent of women under the age of 40 years had pathology that did not support the need for a hysterectomy, while the rate was only 12 percent for patients aged 40-50 and 7.5 percent for women over 50.

As highlighted by the study authors, their findings “provide evidence that alternatives to hysterectomy are underutilized in women undergoing hysterectomy for abnormal uterine bleeding, uterine fibroids, endometriosis or pelvic pain.”