Stacy Garrard decided to give herself an unusual present for her 50th birthday: a hysterectomy.
Garrard, who has a 25-year-old son, had suffered from painful, heavy menstrual periods most of her life and was looking for relief. Hormone therapy, an intrauterine device and endometrial ablation had all been suggested by different physicians. But each treatment had various risks and drawbacks.
Then she made an appointment with obstetrician/gynecologist Meredith Gray, MD, at The University of Kansas Health System. Dr. Gray performed an ultrasound that was consistent with adenomyosis, which occurs when endometrial tissue grows into the walls of the uterus. When later testing confirmed that diagnosis, Dr. Gray suggested a vaginal hysterectomy.
Garrard didn't hesitate. "I never had experienced a physician like Dr. Gray before," she says. "She was very confident and forthcoming, answering my questions and explaining the procedure. I had her undivided attention every time we met."
She was very confident and forthcoming, answering my questions and explaining the procedure. I had her undivided attention every time we met. – Stacy Garrard
For many patients, a vaginal hysterectomy, which removes the uterus through the vagina, has advantages over other types of hysterectomies. It is far less invasive than an abdominal hysterectomy, which requires traditional surgery and a hospital stay. And compared to a laparoscopic hysterectomy, which is performed through a small incision near the bellybutton, a vaginal hysterectomy offers patients a faster surgery, lower overall cost and quicker return to normal activities. Both laparoscopic and vaginal surgeries are often outpatient procedures.
"The vaginal hysterectomy is my preferred route of hysterectomy because it is the least invasive way possible to remove the uterus – and it involves no incisions on the abdomen at all," says Dr. Gray.
Garrard, an administrative assistant in medical records management for the health system, was amazed. "I went home the same day and didn't even need to take pain medicine," she says. "I never expected it would be so easy. I wish I had done it a long time ago."