Hysterectomy, What's in a Name?

Hysterectomy is the most common surgical procedure performed on females, second only to Cesarean sections. The literal definition of the term hysterectomy means the removal of hysteria. Interestingly, the diagnosis of hysteria was among the first ever attributable solely to women and became popularized in the 16th and 17th century. Writings dating back to the era of 3 and 4 BC elude to symptoms of hysteria and barbaric treatments women suffered. In the 17th century, Franz Anton Mesmer, used his mesmerizing techniques to cure the "hysteria" of women inflicted with this disease. Hysterectomy then became a more common intervention for the refractory cases of hysteria. The sparse writings of the time do not demonstrate great success with this surgical procedure. In fact, most cures were due to the death of the patient from infectious surgical complications.

Have we evolved since the era Before Christ? The American Academy of Psychiatry abandoned the diagnosis of hysteria as a mental disease in 1952. However, we still refer to the removal of the uterus as a hysterectomy. Are we still purporting that gynecologists are removing hysteria? Why is this term still acceptable or even permissible? In my opinion, it fully undermines the value of a woman, it denegrates the unique and mysterious powers of the uterus, and makes a major surgical procedure seem commonplace and simple. 

The term hysterectomy should be abandoned, abolished, eradicated. As a society, we should demand more respect for women and officially change the terminology, or as it is known in medicine, the nomenclature, to uterectomy (removal of the uterus). No other surgical procedure is known by any other name than that of the organ being removed. Just consider some of the new surgical procedures for severe depression, anti-social disorder where a very specific part of the brain is ablated to improve the condition. Do we call this depressionectomy or anti-socialectomy...of course not, even though that is exactly what is being accomplished. Thus, we never can remove hysteria with a hysterectomy.

It is long overdue for the voice of women to be heard, loud and clear, demanding the term hysterectomy to forever only belong in history books and no longer in the books currently used to teach our future doctors. I hope this blog will prove to be the catalyst to mobilize such a movement. It is the force of societal power that creates changes in our country.

Join me now in the quest to finally abolish this very antiquated term. I have been in practice greater than 20 years with a primary focus on surgery of the pelvis. I have performed more than 5000 "hysterectomies," never for the removal of hysteria. We have finally evolved from the 17th century into the 21st century where gynecologists no longer perform the removal of hysteria from women! I am very interested in your opinions, thoughts, and ideas to change the term hysterectomy to uterectomy.

David M Kimble, MD Co-founder and President of the Women's Center for Pelvic Wellness

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