Subtotal versus total hysterectomy

When hysterectomy is required for non-cancerous conditions, either the uterus alone (subtotal hysterectomy) or the uterus and the cervix (total hysterectomy) are removed. It has been suggested that not removing the cervix (subtotal hysterectomy) would reduce the chances of sexual difficulties or problems with passing urine or stools. This review has found no evidence of a difference between these two different operations for these outcomes. Surgery is faster with subtotal hysterectomy and there is less blood loss during or just after surgery, although these benefits are not large. With subtotal hysterectomy, women are less likely to experience fever during or just after surgery but are more likely to have long term ongoing menstrual bleeding when compared with total hysterectomy.

Authors' conclusions: 

This review has not confirmed the perception that subtotal hysterectomy offers improved outcomes for sexual, urinary or bowel function when compared with total abdominal hysterectomy. Women are more likely to experience ongoing cyclical bleeding up to a year after surgery with subtotal hysterectomy compared to total hysterectomy.

Read the full abstract...

Hysterectomy using an abdominal approach removes either the uterus alone (subtotal hysterectomy) or both the uterus and the cervix (total hysterectomy). The latter is more common but the outcomes have not been systematically compared.


To compare short term and long term outcomes of subtotal hysterectomy (STH) with total hysterectomy (TH) for benign gynaecological conditions.

Search strategy: 

We searched the Cochrane Menstrual Disorders and Subfertility Group Specialised Register of controlled trials (July 2011), CENTRAL (July 2011), MEDLINE (1966 to July 2011), EMBASE (1980 to July 2011), CINAHL (January 2005 to July 2011), Biological Abstracts (1980 to December 2005), the National Research Register and relevant citation lists.

Selection criteria: 

Only randomised controlled trials of women undergoing either total or subtotal hysterectomy for benign gynaecological conditions were included.

Data collection and analysis: 

Nine trials including 1553 participants were included. Independent selection of trials, assessment for risk of bias and data extraction were undertaken by two review authors and the results compared.

Main results: 

There was no evidence of a difference in the rates of multiple outcomes that assessed urinary, bowel or sexual function between TH and STH, either in the short term (up to two years post-surgery) or long term (nine years post-surgery). Length of operation (difference of 11 min) and amount of blood lost during surgery (difference of 57 ml) were significantly reduced during subtotal hysterectomy when compared with total hysterectomy. These differences are unlikely to constitute a clinical benefit and there was no evidence of a difference in the odds of blood transfusion. Post-operative fever and urinary retention were less likely (fever: OR 0.48, 95% CI 0.3 to 0.8; retention: OR 0.23, 95% CI 0.1 to 0.8) and ongoing cyclical vaginal bleeding up to two years after surgery was more likely (OR 16.0, 95% CI 6.1 to 41.6) after STH compared with TH. There was no evidence of a difference in the rates of other complications, recovery from surgery, alleviation of pre-surgery symptoms or readmission rates between the two types of hysterectomy carried out through the abdominal or laparoscopic route, although trials comparing the laparoscopic route were underpowered to detect some differences.