The term “laser hysterectomy” can refer to several different procedures, not all of which actually involve the use of surgical lasers. Most commonly, it is used in reference to laparoscopically assisted vaginal hysterectomy (LVAH), a procedure performed without the use of a laser. It can also refer to laser ablation of the uterus, an acceptable treatment for certain kinds of conditions, although the uterus is not actually removed in such procedures and they are not technically hysterectomies.
In LVAH procedures, the surgeon inserts several tools through the abdomen to access the uterus and the uterus is removed through the vagina. The laser hysterectomy procedure is less invasive than an abdominal hysterectomy, where a large incision is made over the pelvis to access the uterus and remove it. It can be an alternative to total laparoscopic hysterectomy, where the uterus is removed in pieces through very small abdominal incisions. Total laparoscopic hysterectomy is not an option for all patients, for a variety of reasons.
Patients receiving a laser hysterectomy experience a much shorter recovery time. Major muscles are not severed and much of the pelvic floor is left intact. In addition to reducing pain and discomfort during recovery, this also reduces the risk of incontinence and other problems later on. Infections tend to be less likely with laparoscopic procedures and vaginal scarring is reduced, a concern for some women worried about sexual activity after hysterectomies.
Usually, very few scars can be seen with laser hysterectomy procedures. The incisions made to introduce instruments are small and will heal, leaving small marks. The marks will be more noticeable if the patient tans, but otherwise should be relatively unobtrusive. Scarring is a worry for some patients, especially since historically, hysterectomies required large incisions and often left ugly scars behind.
The reasons for calling the procedure a laser hysterectomy are unclear. It's possible that the term is meant to capitalize on patient preference for the latest medical procedures. Laser procedures also have a reputation for safety, reliability, and reduced healing time, making “laser” in the name of a procedure appealing for a patient. Patients considering a hysterectomy should ask about the options available and get details on how the procedures are performed to make an informed decision about the best type of procedure for their situation. Gynecological surgeons are also usually willing to provide referrals to colleagues for second opinions, giving patients an option to obtain more information about planned surgeries.