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What to expect from a hysteroscopy

We answer some of the biggest questions you might have

Young woman wearing a hospital gown ready to have a hysteroscopy
Young woman wearing a hospital gown ready to have a hysteroscopy

If you’ve been told that you or a loved one need a hysteroscopy, it’s likely you have a fair few questions, from what happens during the procedure to how long it will take to recover.

At nib, we consider ourselves your health partner. Here to help when it comes to understanding the complexities of navigating the hospital system as well as breaking down what might be involved in treatment and recovery. And while your healthcare provider is always the best person to provide you personalised information, we’ve answered some of the biggest questions you might have about what to expect from a hysteroscopy.

What is a hysteroscopy?
Why would you need to have a hysteroscopy?
What happens during the procedure?
What complications can arise from a hysteroscopy?
What is the recovery time for a hysteroscopy?

What is a hysteroscopy?

A hysteroscopy is a form of minimal invasive surgery allowing a specialist to view the cervix and uterus. The primary purpose is to diagnose and treat certain uterine conditions.

The procedure uses a hysteroscope (thin tube with light and camera) to look through the cervix (between the vagina and uterus) and inspect the inside of the uterus. 

The hysteroscope transmits an image to a screen enabling better visualisation to diagnose and treat abnormal pain, uterine bleeding, reoccurring miscarriage or infertility issues. It can be used to clarify abnormal findings from an ultrasound.

A hysteroscopy is often the optimal choice of assessment for treatment of endometrial conditions. There is higher certainty in diagnosing diseases within the uterus, with options of taking a biopsy for pathology (studying samples of body tissue to help make a diagnosis) and surgical intervention.

The procedure is performed in a hospital or a specialist’s office.

Why would you need to have a hysteroscopy?

A hysteroscopy may be needed for the following reasons:

  • Abnormal cervical screening test results

  • Abnormal bleeding (heavy or irregular periods, or bleeding after menopause)

  • To diagnose the cause of infertility or repeated miscarriages

  • Examine and remove uterine scarring, polyps or fibroids

  • Removal of a small tissue sample (biopsy)

  • A hysteroscopy is not appropriate during pregnancy.

What happens during the procedure?

The specialist will tailor the procedure based on your condition and your specific healthcare needs. Generally, a hysteroscopy will take between 5 and 30 minutes, and follows this process:

  1. 1

    You’ll put on a hospital gown, empty your bladder

  2. 2

    You’ll be given a local or general anaesthetic and lie down with your legs held in supports

  3. 3

    The cervix is widened (dilated) and the hysteroscope is guided carefully through the vagina and cervix into the uterine cavity. A liquid or gas will be injected to expand the uterus for a better view

  4. 4

    The camera sends pictures to a monitor so your specialist can spot any abnormalities

  5. 5

    In some cases, your specialist may decide to take a biopsy and/or remove tissue from the cervix or uterus

  6. 6

    When the procedure is done, the hysteroscope will be removed.

How do you prepare for a hysteroscopy?

Your specialist will give you a more customised plan closer to your surgery date, but it’s likely you’ll be asked to fast (not have any food or drinks) for at least six hours before your procedure. You might also be asked to take pain medication an hour before the procedure.

Related: What to expect from day surgery

What complications can arise from a hysteroscopy?

A hysteroscopy is usually a very safe procedure, but as with all medical procedures, there is a small risk of complications. This risk is increased if the hysteroscopy is being used to carry out a surgical treatment rather than simply to make an examination. 

Some of the main, but unlikely risks include:

  • Accidental damage to the uterus. This is not common, but may require treatment with antibiotics or another operation to repair the damage

  • Accidental damage to the cervix. Again, this is rare and can be easily repaired

  • Infection, which could cause vaginal discharge, fever and heavy bleeding. This is treated with antibiotics

  • Excessive bleeding pre or post-surgery, which in most cases can be treated with medication or another procedure.

What is the recovery time for a hysteroscopy?

A hysteroscopy is relatively straightforward but will depend on the type of anesthesia you had. When stable, you’ll be discharged to go home – this is often two to four hours following your procedure, however some patients may stay longer.

You should expect to resume most normal activities within one or two days after your procedure, but be careful not to overexert yourself or do heavy lifting or pushing.

You might feel some discomfort and tiredness after the procedure, so sleep or rest as needed. Some discomfort is to be expected following the procedure – you may feel some mild, period-like pain or cramps. Take pain medication as instructed by your healthcare provider.

If you have a fever, increase in severity of pain, nausea and vomiting or notice heavy bleeding from vagina, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, then immediately call your doctor or go to the hospital.

Related: Post-surgery tips and advice: What to expect

Need to head to hospital?

If you’re with nib, make sure you check out our Going to hospital page. This tool gives you information on health insurance, tips on how to reduce any out-of-pocket expenses and helpful questions to ask your specialist. To find out the details of your current policy, chat to someone about an upcoming hospital visit or get some guidance, please call us on 13 16 42.

Please note: The tips throughout this article serve as broad information and should not replace any advice you have been given by your medical practitioner.

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