Vaginal hysterectomy is an alternative to abdominal hysterectomy; the advantages to vaginal uterine removal are the absence of a large abdominal incision, shorter hospital stay and recovery time, and fewer overall complications. Complications such as infection, however, can occur with vaginal hysterectomy as with any surgical procedure. Infection occurs in 5 percent of cases, according to Dr. Thomas Stovall, professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Tennessee. Factors that increase the risk of post-vaginal hysterectomy infection symptoms include obesity, smoking, diabetes and advanced age.
Fever after vaginal hysterectomy is not always a sign of vaginal infection; low-grade fever is common after the surgery, Stovall states. Fever higher than 100.4 degrees should be investigated, however, especially if accompanied by chills or other signs of infection, or if it persists for more than a day. Fever that starts after the first few days of surgery should also be investigated.
Vaginal pain and discomfort that persists for 1 to 2 weeks, severe or throbbing pain that persists more than 1 or 2 days, or pain that intensifies after initial improvement, might indicate infection. Pain with bowel movements or pain upon urination might also be caused by a vaginal infection. Lower abdominal tenderness or abdominal rigidity are also signs of infection that’s spread to the abdomen. If an abscess has formed, the abscess will need to be surgically drained and intravenous antibiotics given.
Bleeding and vaginal discharge are common in the first weeks after vaginal hysterectomy. If the discharge is foul smelling, however, or if pus is visible, the incision site could be infected. Incisional infection occurs in 3 to 5 percent of surgeries, Dr. Frederick R. Jelovsek, professor at James H. Quillen College of Medicine, states in the article, "What to Expect after Hysterectomy," published on the website, Women’s Health Resource.
Sepsis, or infection that travels through the bloodstream, can occur in any post-surgical recovery period. Sepsis can lead to shock; symptoms of shock are rapid heart rate, fast, shallow breathing, cyanosis, extreme weakness, low blood pressure, decrease urine output and collapse, according to the Mayo Clinic. Shock is a medical emergency that requires immediate attention.