Women who have undergone hysterectomy appear to be at increased risk for cardiovascular disease (CVD), new research shows. However, the procedure itself does not seem to raise the risk, but rather it identifies a group of women who are predisposed to heart problems, even before surgery.
“We cannot rule out some small residual influence of the surgery itself on cardiovascular events,” lead author Dr. Barbara V. Howard, from the MedStar Research Institute in Hyattsville, Maryland, said in a statement. “But it looks as if women with hysterectomies have more heart disease because women who get hysterectomies also have more risk factors.”
The findings, which appear in the medical journal Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association, are based on an analysis of data from nearly 90,000 women who participated in the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) Observational Study.
The subjects, who were all postmenopausal women between the ages of 50 and 79 years old, were monitored for CVD events for five years.
The hysterectomy rates for black, Hispanic and American Indian women ranged from 45 percent to 53 percent, much higher than the 40-percent rate for white women and the 34-percent rate for Asian women.
Women who underwent hysterectomy were significantly more likely than other women to have a number of CVD risk factors at the start of the study, including high blood pressure, Diabetes, High Cholesterol, Obesity, and lower levels of physical activity.
Overall, hysterectomy patients had higher death rates from CVD and other causes and a higher rate of non-fatal CVD than the other women.
On initial analysis, women who underwent hysterectomies had a 26 percent increased risk of CVD. However, after accounting for CVD risk factors before hysterectomy, the risk of CVD was no longer significantly higher than the other women.
SOURCE: Circulation, March 21, 2005.
Revision date: June 22, 2011
Last revised: by Sebastian Scheller, MD, ScD