Definition of Oophorectomy Procedure

A surgical operation to remove one ovary (unilateral oophorectomy) or both ovaries (bilateral oophorectomy) in a woman. Oophorectomy may be therapeutic (to treat a health condition) or prophylactic (to prevent a health condition).

The key health conditions for which therapeutic oophorectomy is an option include ovarian cancer, severe endometriosis, ovarian abscess (infection of the ovary), and large or multiple ovarian cysts.

Prophylactic oophorectomy is an effort to lower the possibility for developing hormone driven cancers (ovarian, breast, endometrial) in a woman who has unusually high risk for such cancers, either genetically or because of a prior such cancer. Removing both ovaries cuts a woman’s estrogen production to almost nothing, mostly depriving hormone-sensitive cancer cells of the substance they require to thrive.

Unilateral oophorectomy often allows a woman to preserve her fertility because the remaining ovary, if healthy, continues to produce hormones and OVA (eggs) that maintain the menstrual cycle. bilateral oophorectomy entirely ends ovarian function and the menstrual cycle, resulting in abrupt menopause in women who are still menstruating at the time of surgery. Such surgically induced menopause, because it is sudden, may thrust the body into significant symptoms such as hot flashes.

The operation for either unilateral or bilateral oophorectomy may be open surgery, in which the surgeon makes an incision in the lower abdomen large enough to expose the ovary, or minimally invasive surgery, in which the surgeon makes several small incisions in the lower abdomen and visualizes the operative site using a laparoscope.

The type of operation depends on multiple factors including the reason for the oophorectomy and the woman’s general health status.

Open oophorectomy requires three to five days of hospitalization and six to eight weeks for recovery.

Laparoscopic oophorectomy is often an ambulatory (outpatient) surgery with rapid recovery and return to regular activities within a week or two. About half of total hysterectomies (operations to remove the uterus) also include removal of the ovaries (hystero-oophorectomy) or the ovaries and the fallopian tubes (hysterosalpingooophorectomy).

Side Effects and risks

The short-term risks of oophorectomy include excessive bleeding and postoperative infection. The key long-term complication of bilateral oophorectomy is osteoporosis (loss of bone density), the risk for which arises from the depletion of estrogen.


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