Both procedures are used to treat heavy menstrual bleeding and other uterine conditions. Endometrial ablation is a less invasive form of surgery that destroys the lining of the uterus, while a hysterectomy involves removing the entire uterus.

More invasive surgeries like hysterectomies often come with longer recovery periods and more risk of complications.

However, studies have found that further treatment is sometimes necessary with endometrial ablation.

In other words, a hysterectomy may be more likely to completely resolve symptoms, while an endometrial ablation may only reduce symptoms like bleeding.

Both treat heavy or abnormal menstrual bleeding or conditions associated with this, like anemia. But they are slightly different.

Endometrial ablation reduces how much you bleed during periods and may stop all bleeding, whereas a hysterectomy will stop periods completely.

A hysterectomy may also be performed for people with fibroids, reproductive-related cancers, or chronic pelvic pain.

There are several types of hysterectomy, which can range from just the uterus being removed to other reproductive organs like the cervix and ovaries being removed.

There are also several forms of hysterectomy surgery. For example, a surgeon may remove the uterus through an incision in the vagina or stomach. Some may use keyhole surgery and robotic assistance to reduce scarring and blood loss.

Vaginal hysterectomies are the least invasive type, taking about an hour to perform. A general anesthetic may not be required.

Endometrial ablation is less invasive than a vaginal hysterectomy and usually lasts half an hour.

A wand-type device that transmits heat, cold, or energy to destroy the lining tissue is inserted into the vagina to reach the uterus.

An anesthetic is given, but you may be awake or asleep during the procedure.

As a hysterectomy is more invasive, its recovery time is significantly longer.

You’ll often need to remain in hospital for a couple of days after surgery or overnight at the very least. Full recovery can take between 3 and 6 weeks, depending on how the hysterectomy was performed.

During recovery, you’ll likely need to avoid things like heavy lifting and vaginal penetration. You may also experience the likes of bloating, cramps, and brown discharge.

With endometrial ablation, you won’t need to stay in hospital overnight. And you should recover within a few days of the procedure.

Like a hysterectomy, you can experience some effects after an endometrial ablation. For example, it’s typical to feel nauseous and need to urinate more. Cramps and light bleeding can also occur.

Both procedures have their ups and downs.

Older research, published in 2008, found that endometrial ablation and hysterectomy can resolve unwanted vaginal bleeding for at least 48 months.

However, a hysterectomy was more effective in resolving heavy or unusual bleeding, with some needing further surgery after endometrial ablation.

In another study, people were more satisfied and had a better quality of life after a hysterectomy.

Endometrial ablation may still be opted for as it’s a less invasive procedure with a shorter recovery period.

According to that same older research, adverse effects are more common after a hysterectomy because it’s more invasive. These can range from infections and bleeding to genital pain and incontinence.

But at a 6-month follow-up appointment, people who’d had an endometrial ablation were more likely to report pain and fatigue. Other complications include vaginal discharge and increased period pain.

More rarely, injuries to pelvic organs and the uterus itself can occur. There can also be a higher risk of an ectopic pregnancy or premature birth after an endometrial ablation.

Another risk of endometrial ablation is that further operations may be needed to resolve the condition fully. This may take the form of another endometrial ablation or a hysterectomy.

According to a study published in 2011, almost 20% of people will have a hysterectomy within 5 years of undergoing endometrial ablation.

Endometrial ablation and hysterectomy can be effective options for uterine conditions like heavy bleeding.

Both differ in invasiveness, with a hysterectomy being a more complicated procedure with a longer hospital stay and recovery time.

However, endometrial ablation may not be a permanent solution, with some people needing further surgery at a later date.

Your medical professional will discuss each procedure’s pros and cons and help you determine your best route.

Lauren Sharkey is a U.K.-based journalist and author specializing in women’s issues. When she isn’t trying to discover a way to banish migraine, she can be found uncovering the answers to your lurking health questions. She has also written a book profiling young female activists across the globe and is currently building a community of such resisters. Catch her on Twitter.