Ovary removal surgery, also known as oophorectomy, is a surgical procedure to remove one or both of a woman’s ovaries. Ovaries are a part of the woman’s reproductive system and contain eggs - the female reproductive cell. Ovaries also produce the hormones estrogen and progesterone that control a woman’s menstrual cycle.
When and why is Ovary Removal Surgery done?
A doctor may suggest ovary removal surgery in a multitude of cases. For instance, when a woman possesses the BRCA gene, the most common gene for breast and ovarian cancer. In such a case, removing the woman’s ovaries limit her risk of getting cancer. The same surgery can also be used to treat cancer. In other cases, surgery is used to treat conditions such as ovarian cysts, abscesses, benign tumours, or endometriosis.
How is Surgery done?
Post administering an anaesthetic to put the patient in a sleep-like state, the doctor will perform a laparotomy or a minimally invasive laparoscopic surgery. In a laparotomy, the surgeon makes a single long incision in the patient’s lower abdomen to access the ovaries. He or she then separates each ovary from the blood vessels and the tissues that surround it and removes the ovary.
In a minimally invasive laparoscopic surgery, on the other hand, the surgeon makes three or four tiny incisions in the abdomen. He then inserts a laparoscope or a tube with a tiny camera through one incision and surgical tools through the others. The camera transmits video to a screen so the surgeon can guide the surgical tools accordingly.
Each ovary is then separated from the blood supply and surrounding tissue and is placed in a pouch. The pouch is pulled out of the abdomen through one of the small incisions.
Laparoscopic surgery may also be robotically assisted. Robotic surgery enables the surgeon to view the image in 3D and use hand controls that allow finer movement of surgical tools.
Which procedure is right for me?
Choosing between one of the three procedures, i.e. a laparotomy, a laparoscopic surgery, or a robotically assisted surgery will depend on the situation of the patient. A laparoscopic or robotically assisted procedure generally offers quicker recovery, less pain, and a shorter hospital stay. However, they may not be ideal for all patients. In certain cases, surgery that begins as laparoscopic may need to be converted to an open procedure during the operation.
What are the risks associated with the procedure?
On the whole, an oophorectomy is a relatively safe procedure. However, as with any other surgical procedure, there are a few inherent risks. These include excessive bleeding, infection, damage to nearby organs, rupture of a tumour that can lead to the spread of potentially cancerous cells, and the retention of ovary cells that continue to cause symptoms. Keep in mind that if your doctor is advising surgery it means that the benefits outweigh the risks.
How long will recovery take?
The duration of recovery depends on the patient’s situation, why surgery was performed, and which procedure was used. Most patients will generally get back to everyday life within six weeks of the surgery. Patients who have undergone less invasive laparoscopic or robotic surgery may have a faster recovery and can be discharged as early as two weeks after surgery.
How will Surgery Affect Fertility?
A woman’s fertility and whether or not she can become pregnant post surgery depends on her situation. For example, if she had only one ovary removed, the other ovary will still produce estrogen, she will still have a menstrual cycle and will be able to get pregnant.
Will Surgery cause an early onset of Menopause? Menopause begins when the ovaries in the female body stop producing estrogen naturally. In India, menopause begins at around 46-49 years of age. If the patient has not yet reached natural menopause and has surgery to remove her ovaries, she is likely to have “surgical” menopause.
Surgical menopause causes menopause symptoms such as hot flashes and vaginal dryness. In certain cases, it could also lead to depression or anxiety, heart disease, memory problems, a decreased sex drive or an increased risk of osteoporosis.
It is recommended that you talk to your doctor about the methods that you can use to cope with or treat the above symptoms.