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Health Information Center


  • Amy Scholten, MPH
Publication Type:



(Skinning Vulvectomy; Partial Vulvectomy; Radical Vulvectomy; Simple Vulvectomy; Vulvectomy—Skinning; Vulvectomy—Partial; Vulvectomy—Radical; Vulvectomy—Simple)


A vulvectomy is surgery to remove all or part of the vulva. The vulva is the outside part of female genitals. It includes the clitoris, labia majora (outer lips), and labia minora (inner lips).

Reasons for Procedure

This surgery is done to remove cancer cells from the vulva. It can also be done to remove skin changes, such as warts.

Possible Complications

Problems are rare, but all procedures have some risk. The doctor will go over some problems that could happen, such as:

  • Excess bleeding
  • Problems from anesthesia, such as wheezing and sore throat
  • Infection
  • Blood clots
  • Tightness or dryness of the vagina
  • Not being able to have an orgasm
  • Swelling in the legs

Things that may raise the risk of problems are:

  • Smoking
  • Drinking excess alcohol
  • Chronic health problems, such as diabetes or obesity

What to Expect

Problems to Look Out For

Call your doctor if you are not getting better or you have:

  • Signs of infection, such as fever and chills
  • Redness, swelling, a lot of bleeding, or discharge from the site
  • Pain, redness, warmth, or swelling in your legs
  • Burning or pain when passing urine
  • Pain that you cannot control with medicine
  • Lasting nausea or vomiting
  • Belly pain, chest pain, or problems breathing
  • New or worsening symptoms

If you think you have an emergency, call for medical help right away.

Prior to Procedure

The surgical team may meet with you to talk about:

  • Anesthesia options
  • Any allergies you may have
  • Current medicines, herbs, and supplements that you take and whether you need to stop taking them before surgery
  • Fasting before surgery, such as avoiding food or drink after midnight the night before
  • Arranging for a ride to and from surgery


The doctor may give:

  • A sedative—you will feel relaxed
  • Local anesthesia—the area will be numbed
  • General anesthesia—you will be asleep

Description of the Procedure

There is more than one way to do this surgery. The method used depends on what parts of the vulva and nearby tissue have been affected by cancer or abnormal skin. Examples are:

  • Skinning vulvectomy—removes the top layer of skin
  • Simple vulvectomy—removes multiple layers of skin and tissue
  • Partial vulvectomy—removes a part of the vulva, some nearby tissue, and lymph nodes
  • Radical vulvectomy—removes the entire vulva, including nearby tissue and lymph nodes

After the affected areas are removed, the doctor may need to reconstruct the vulva. Sometimes only a small amount of skin is removed. If so, the remaining skin may be stitched together. Sometimes, a skin graft is needed. Temporary drains may be inserted. The drains remove extra fluids from the incision area.

How Long Will It Take?

About 1 to 2 hours

Will It Hurt?

Anesthesia will prevent pain during surgery. There will be some pain and discomfort after the procedure. Medicine and home care can help.

Average Hospital Stay

The hospital stay depends on the type of surgery. You may go home the same day or up to a few days after.

Post-procedure Care

At the Hospital

After the procedure, the staff may give pain medicine.

During your stay, the hospital staff will take steps to lower your risk of infection such as:

  • Washing their hands
  • Wearing gloves or masks
  • Keeping your wounds covered

There are also steps you can take to lower your risk of infection, such as:

  • Washing your hands often and reminding visitors and staff to do the same
  • Reminding staff to wear gloves or masks
  • Not letting others touch your wounds

At Home

It will take a few weeks to recover. Physical and sexual activity will be limited during this time. You will need to delay your return to work.





  • He L, Chen G, et al. Safety and feasibility of single-incision radical vulvectomy: a novel approach for the treatment of vulvar cancer. Ann Transl Med. 2021;9(4):320.
  • Vulval cancer surgery. Cancer Research UK website. Available at: http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-cancer/vulval-cancer/treatment/surgery.
  • Vulvar cancer treatment. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: https://www.cancer.gov/types/vulvar/patient/vulvar-treatment-pdq#link/_49.
  • Vulvar intraepithelial neoplasia (VIN). EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/vulvar-intraepithelial-neoplasia-vin.


  • Elizabeth Margaret Prusak, MD
Last Updated:

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.