Not quite to plan, wound infection after hysterectomy – Elizabeth’s story

I am 66 and underwent a laparoscopically assisted vaginal hysterectomy (ovaries also removed) and extended vaginal cuff procedure due to VAIN and several dodgy smear results which colposcopy didn’t sort out. All did not quite go according to plan as I ended up with a wound infection and I hope my story will help anyone who feels unfit to leave hospital have the strength to argue their case better than I did. I feel that being discharged too early on 2 occasions caused my problems to be worse than they could have been and therefore made my recovery time longer.

My hysterectomy was elective and I don’t at all regret that I chose to have it done as I am now freed from the nagging anxiety that I had cells which could become cancerous. I am also free from the prospect of repeated colposcopy sessions!

I was sent home the day after the procedure (in spite of saying I did not feel well and the surgeon having said that there was a small possibility that my bowel had been perforated due to scar tissue from a previous appendix removal). I insisted that I did not feel well enough and asked if I should stay in hospital until I had opened my bowels. They gave me a bottle of laxative and a packet of paracetamol and discharged me. During that night at home I felt worse and, by morning I was in considerable discomfort so, after phoning 111 for advice, my husband drove me to my GP’s surgery as soon as it opened. My GP sent me straight back to the hospital with a letter saying that my bowel was inactive. I was readmitted, x-rayed and CT scanned but the results were inconclusive. We agreed that they should ‘open me up’ and repair anything that they could find. When I woke afterwards I was told that they had repaired a small perforation in my bowel. I remained in hospital for 8 further days and was discharged the day after my antibiotics finished.

30 hours later I returned to A&E suspecting that the wound was infected. After cleaning it, they sent me home with the instruction to return the following day if I was concerned. I was readmitted when I returned in the morning and put on a cocktail of intravenous antibiotics. 5 days later I was discharged again (with a vacuum dressing) into the charge of the District Nursing team. Fortunately, the wound has healed pretty quickly and without further complications so now, seven weeks after the second operation, I am able to dress the wound myself and expect to be able to go without a dressing within a week or two.

The one really irritating (literally) symptom I am left with is itchy and flaky skin on my legs, body and arms – I have no idea whether this is due to the hysterectomy; the fact that I swelled up with all the fluid that was put into me during my second hospital stay (I felt like a marrow with sausage fingers); side effects of the antibiotics or to the general anaesthetics or whether it is nothing to do with any of these. I am using moisturisers and am taking fish oil in the hopes that these will help.

I am aware that I am one of the few unlucky ones and hope that anyone who might read this before their procedure isn’t made anxious. My one piece of advice to anyone is to make sure that she tells the hospital if she really feels that she is being discharged too early. My doctor diagnosed my inactive bowel by using a stethoscope – I feel that the hospital could probably have done the same the previous day!

(Image courtesy: Bilder aus der Geschichte der europäischen Heilkunde und Pharmazie, Budapest: Corvina Kiadó)

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