A vulvectomy is done to remove the vulva or parts of it. The vulva is made up of the genitals located on the outside of a female’s body. These genitals are the clitoris, labia majora, and labia minora.
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This is done to remove cancerous cells from the vulva. It may be able to cure vulvar cancer. It can also be done to remove abnormal skin, like warts.
If you are planning to have a vulvectomy, your doctor will review a list of possible complications, like: BleedingPain, numbness, or tenderness of the vulvaWound not closing properlyInfectionBlood clots in the legsTightness or dryness of the vaginaReaction to anesthesia
may increase the risk of complications.
Discuss these risks with your doctor.
Before the surgery, your doctor may: Do a physical exam and review your medical historyPerform blood and imaging tests
Talk to you about any medicines, herbs, and dietary supplements you may be taking—You may be asked to stop taking some medicines up to one week before the procedure, like:
or other anti-inflammatory drugs
Blood thinners (eg,
Before the surgery: Arrange for a ride to and from the hospital.The night before surgery, do not eat or drink after midnight.
will be used. It will block any pain and keep you asleep through the surgery.
A nurse will insert an IV into your arm. This will deliver antibiotics. Your pubic hair will be removed. The nurse will also insert a catheter to drain urine from your bladder.
There are several types of vulvectomy surgery. The type you will have depends on what parts of the vulva and nearby tissue have been affected by cancer or abnormal skin. Examples include: Skinning vulvectomy—removes the top layer of skinSimple vulvectomy—removes multiple layers of skin and tissuePartial vulvectomy—removes a part of the vulva, as well as some nearby tissue and lymph nodesRadical vulvectomy—removes the entire vulva, including nearby tissue and lymph nodes
Once all affected areas have been removed, the doctor may need to reconstruct the vulva. If only a small amount of skin was removed, she may be able to stitch the remaining skin together. Sometimes, a
is needed. Temporary drains may be inserted to remove extra fluids from the incision area.
Anesthesia prevents pain during surgery. Your doctor will give you pain medicine after surgery.
The hospital stay depends on the type of surgery. You may go home the same day or up to a few days after. If you had any problems, you will need to stay longer.
While in the hospital, you may be asked to: Begin drinking clear fluids. You will slowly progress to solid food.Do breathing exercises to help prevent chest infections.Get up and walk to relieve gas and prevent blood clots.
The catheter and drains may be removed within a week.
When you return home, you may be asked to do the following: If you have a dressing, follow instructions for changing and removing it.Keep your legs apart.After a bowel movement, wipe yourself from front to back.Take a sitz bath three times a day and after a bowel movement—A sitz bath is soaking the hip and buttocks area in warm water. You can buy a plastic sitz bath at most drugstores. Or you can use your bathtub.Clean the area with natural soap (eg, glycerin) or plain warm water.Keep the vulvar area dry. Dry yourself with a clean towel or use a hair dryer at a low setting.Wear loose clothing and cotton underwear.Avoid wearing pantyhose or girdles.Move your legs while you are in bed to prevent blood clots.Your doctor will let you know when you can have sex again.Follow your doctor’s instructions.
Ask your doctor about when it is safe to shower, bathe, or soak in water.
After you leave the hospital, contact your doctor if any of the following occurs: Signs of infection, including fever and chillsRedness, swelling, increasing pain, tenderness, a lot of bleeding, or discharge from the surgery sitePain, redness, hot skin, or swelling in your legsBurning or pain when urinatingPain not controlled by the medicine givenNausea or vomitingAbdominal pain, chest pain, or trouble breathingWound opens
In case of an emergency, call for medical help right away.
Last reviewed February 2012 by Mohei Abouzied, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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