A hysteroscopy is a procedure used to examine the inside of the uterus. It is carried out using a hysteroscope, which is a narrow tube with a telescope at the end. Images are sent to a computer to give a close-up of the womb.
A hysteroscopy can be used to help diagnosis cases where a woman’s symptoms suggest that there may be a problem with the womb. Symptoms might include:
• heavy or irregular periods
• bleeding in between normal periods
• pelvic pain
• unusual vaginal discharge
• repeated miscarriage
A hysteroscopy can also be used to remove abnormal growths from the womb, such as:
• fibroids – non-cancerous growths that can develop inside the womb and can sometimes cause symptoms such as pain and heavy periods
• polyps – small growths that develop on the lining of the womb and can cause irregular and heavy periods
• intrauterine adhesions – which are sections of scar tissue that can cause absent periods and infertility
A hysteroscopy is a common procedure, usually carried out on an out-patient basis. This means that you do not have to stay the night in hospital.
Depending on the reason for your hysteroscopy, it can be performed under local anaesthetic (where medication is used to numb a small area) or general anaesthetic.
The surgeon will use a device called a speculum to open up the walls of the vagina, in the same way it is used during a smear test. The surgeon will then insert the hysteroscope through the cervix, into the womb. Often gas or fluid is used to inflate the womb to give the surgeon a better view. If a biopsy or treatment, such as removal of polyps, is needed, other instruments will be passed into the womb.
A hysteroscopy usually takes between 10 and 30 minutes, depending on what needs to be done.
Some women will experience cramping similar to period pains after a hysteroscopy, but this usually passes within a few days.
Most women feel they can return to normal activities, such as work, the day after the procedure.
What are the risks?
A hysteroscopy is a very safe procedure with a low risk of complications. The two most commonly reported complications of a hysteroscopy are:
• accidental damage to the womb or cervix, which may require further treatment to correct – this occurs in around 1 in every 135 cases
• infection – which occurs in around 1 in 250 cases
In almost all cases the benefits of having a hysteroscopy far outweigh the potential risks.
Ask your Gynaecologist to talk through how any risks might apply to you.