What is an ovariectomy?
Ovariectomy is the surgical removal of one or both ovaries. It is usually performed to treat an ovarian cyst, ovarian cancer or some other problem related to the ovary. Another name for the procedure is oophorectomy. Bilateral ovariectomy refers to the surgical removal of both ovaries.
Why is the procedure performed?
Ovariectomy is usually performed to treat:
- an ovarian cyst
- ovarian torsion (twisted ovary)
- ovarian cancer
An ovarian cyst is a fluid-filled pocket in the ovary. There are different types of ovarian cysts. Most do not cause any problems, but some can turn out to be cancerous, meaning an ovariectomy may be necessary.
Large ovarian cysts can become twisted. This painful condition, known as ovarian torsion, is a surgical emergency. The cyst or entire ovary may need to be removed.
Women with ovarian torsion usually experience sudden, severe, sharp pains in the lower abdomen, often with nausea and vomiting. If you have these symptoms it is important to see a doctor immediately or call triple zero (000) and ask for an ambulance.
Ovarian cancer occurs when some cells in the ovary start to grow abnormally and develop into cancer. Ovarian cancer is usually treated with a type of surgery known as a laparotomy, which involves making a long cut in the abdomen. This allows for the ovaries, fallopian tubes and other organs, if they have been affected, to be removed.
Some women have a high family risk of developing ovarian cancer. If so, they may even choose to have their ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to reduce their risk.
Ovariectomy may also be used to treat endometriosis if other treatments have not worked. Endometriosis is a condition where the tissue lining of the uterus grows outside it. In severe cases, the uterus, ovaries and fallopian tubes may be removed.
How to prepare for the procedure
If you need to have an ovariectomy, you will probably meet with the surgeon and anaesthetist before the operation to discuss the procedure. You will likely need to avoid drinking and eating for some hours before surgery. Your doctor will be able to advise you.
Having both ovaries removed will result in menopause. If you were still having periods before surgery, they will stop immediately after. Knowing what will happen before an ovariectomy may help you feel more prepared to cope with the physical and emotional changes that will follow the surgery. You may also want to discuss with your doctor whether you will be able to become pregnant in the future.
What happens during the procedure?
Ovariectomy is usually performed under a general anaesthetic so that you are asleep during the procedure. The surgeon will make a cut in your abdomen to remove your ovary.
What to expect after the procedure
You might need to stay in hospital for a few days after an ovariectomy so you can recover. You may be given pain relief medication and advised on how to take care of your wound. You will probably be advised to avoid certain activities such as swimming or heavy lifting for a few weeks.
What can go wrong?
Complications that may occur during or after an ovariectomy include:
- damage to nearby organs
- having a small part of the ovary left behind, which could cause problems and be painful
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Last reviewed: April 2021