The prevalence of hysterectomy in the UK general population has not been previously reported. In addition, although it is known that many women with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) have had a hysterectomy, the relationship between these two conditions has never been quantified. A random community sample of 2238 women aged 20-69 from Teesside was surveyed to determine the prevalence of hysterectomy and of IBS, the relationship between these and the influence of socioeconomic status and consultation behaviour on these variables. We analysed data from 1718 women, 13.6% of whom had a hysterectomy, 22.9% had IBS and neither condition was related to socioeconomic status. More women with IBS reported having had a hysterectomy than did non-sufferers, odds ratio 1.6 (1.1-2.2), p < 0.01; this association was also unaffected by socioeconomic status and was not fully explained by consultation behaviour. This is the first study to determine the prevalence of hysterectomy in a UK general population. The procedure is common and the excess of hysterectomy among women with IBS is considerable. Possible explanations include misdiagnosis of IBS resulting in hysterectomy, IBS symptoms occurring as a result of hysterectomy, a single underlying disorder which produces symptoms in both gastrointestinal and genitourinary tracts, or a combination of these factors.