Almost one-fifth of all hysterectomies in the United States might be medically unnecessary, according to new research from a University of Michigan study that was published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Hysterectomies, surgeries which remove all or parts of the uterus, often also remove a woman’s ovaries or cervix as well. After hysterectomies, women can no longer become pregnant, and as many as 400,000 women undergo hysterectomies every year in the states.
There are many reasons why doctors recommend hysterectomies, but the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) has guidelines for doctors to follow before they perform hysterectomies on their patients or refer their patients for hysterectomies. The ACOG suggests that women with benign gynecologic disease should try alternative treatments, before undergoing hysterectomies. Such alternative treatments include hormonal therapies and endometrial ablation, according to Medical News Today.
For the study, researchers from the University of Michigan Medical School’s Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology reviewed 3,397 women’s medical records after they received hysterectomies for benign gynecologic conditions that included abnormal uterine bleeding, endometriosis, pelvic pain, and uterine fibroid tumors.
The researchers found that about 37.7 percent of these women were never offered alternative therapies before their hysterectomy was performed, the researchers claim. Less than one-third of the women tried an alternative therapy prior to their hysterectomies. Additionally, the researchers applied their data and claim that almost one in every five hysterectomies performed in the U.S. is medically unnecessary, according to medical guidelines. Dr. Morgan explained the results, according to a press release.
“This study provides evidence that alternatives to hysterectomy are underutilized in women undergoing hysterectomy for abnormal uterine bleeding, uterine fibroids, endometriosis, or pelvic pain.”
The research team, which included Dr. Daniel Morgan, did find that women under 40 were more likely to try alternative treatments first, but they still had the greatest frequency of medically unsubstantiated hysterectomies, according to the University of Michigan researchers.
“Nearly two in five women under 40 (38%) had pathologic findings that did not support undergoing a hysterectomy versus those aged 40-50 (12%) and over 50 years (7.5%).”
The women who were most likely to skip the alternative treatments were women with endometriosis and chronic pain. What’s more, in addition to the alternative medical treatments for endometriosis that the University of Michigan team examined, natural treatments also exist for endometriosis, according to the University of Maryland. The natural alternatives include dietary changes, nutritional supplements for women with deficiencies, herbs, homeopathy, and acupuncture. The Endometriosis Research Center says that alternative treatments also includes chiropractic care, shiatsu massage, and Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation.
Overall, 18 percent of American women could have avoided their hysterectomies, according to the study’s conclusions.
[Photo via University of Michigan Health System]