Oophorectomy is a surgical procedure to remove the ovaries, the almond-shaped female reproductive organs located in the pelvis, one on each side of the uterus. Ovaries store eggs and produce sex hormones, including estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone.

Types of oophorectomy

Oophorectomy can be unilateral, where only one ovary is removed, or bilateral when both ovaries are removed. If both ovaries are removed, a woman will experience instant and irreversible menopause.

In some patients with an increased risk of ovarian cancer, oophorectomy is combined with the removal of the nearby fallopian tubes. This is called salpingo-oophorectomy and also can be unilateral or bilateral.

Why oophorectomy is done

Oophorectomy is often performed in patients with ovarian cancer. It may also be done to treat ovarian torsion (the twisting of an ovary), tubo-ovarian abscess (a pus-filled pocket involving a fallopian tube and an ovary), and noncancerous ovarian tumors or cysts.

Ovaries may also be removed if the hormones they produce affect the progression of other diseases, such as breast cancer or endometriosis.

In some cases, the ovaries are removed to reduce the possibility of developing a disease, such as ovarian or breast cancer. This is called prophylactic (or risk-reducing) oophorectomy.

Oophorectomy and endometriosis

In patients with severe endometriosis, an oophorectomy is usually performed along with a hysterectomy, or the surgical removal of the uterus, to relieve pain.

An oophorectomy is also recommended for patients who have failed other therapies, do not desire future pregnancies, and if the hormones produced by the ovaries are making the disease worse.

Although oophorectomy works well and the pain does not return in about 85 percent patients, it is usually the last choice for treating endometriosis due to the patient’s inability to get pregnant, long recovery times, and the premature menopause it causes.

Risks associated with oophorectomy

Although oophorectomy is a relatively safe procedure, it involves a risks such as bleeding, damage to the surrounding area, or risk of infection. Women of child-bearing age will not be able to conceive after this operation.

The surgery may also cause the rupture of a tumor, leading to potentially cancerous cells spreading to other parts of the body.

In some cases, ovarian cells may be left behind even after the removal of both ovaries. These residual cells may cause symptoms such as pelvic pain to persist in premenopausal women, a condition called ovarian remnant syndrome.


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