This surgery can be scary but it can be quite common and does not necessarily mean the inevitable onset of menopause. It all depends on the problem that needs to be addressed and the degree of urgency of the situation.
What is oophorectomy?
Ovariectomy is a fairly quick surgery removing one or more ovaries from a woman’s reproductive system. We can also speak of ovariectomy for animals but in this case, we will more generally use the term sterilization. This is not always the case in humans.
In rare cases, oophorectomy must be accompanied by removal of the uterus (hysterectomy). We speak then d’ovariohystérectomy.
In which cases to perform the intervention?
A hysterectomy can be used in certain more or less serious cases, with a more or less established degree of urgency:
- presence of cysts : the cyst is a lump in the tissues of the ovary and is not necessarily dangerous but it is sometimes better to remove it surgically to avoid rupture, especially in women over 45 years old;
- detection of a tumor : even if the tumor detected is benign, some of them can have an unpredictable evolution and sometimes it makes more sense to remove the ovary to prevent other organs from being affected;
- cancer or cancer risk : ablation may be necessary in the case of ovarian cancer, Cervical cancer or cancer of the cervical endometrium (which is not not necessarily related to endometriosis). But it is also recommended for prevention for certain cancers of genetic origin (for example, if the presence of the BCR1 or BCR2 gene is detected in a woman over 40);
- ectopic pregnancy : also called ectopic pregnancy, this is a gynecological emergency. If the embryo begins to grow in the ovary, an oophorectomy is often necessary;
- ovarian twist : quite rare event which can occur at the beginning of a pregnancy or when there is a presence of a cyst or a tumor.
How is the surgery performed?
Once the patient has been made aware of the risks and benefits of the procedure and it has been decided upon, it can proceed very quickly, especially if it is a gynecological emergency. The surgery very often takes place on an outpatient basis, that is to say that only one day may be necessary between the patient’s entry into the hospital and her discharge.
There are two ways an ovarian removal operation can be performed:
- coelioscopie : the belly is not open, it is the most common procedure if a cyst is found. The surgeon inflates the abdomen with carbon dioxide and introduces the instruments through the abdominal wall to perform the operation. In some cases, this technique helps to get rid of a cyst without having to remove the ovary;
- laparotomy : in the majority of other cases, an open stomach operation is necessary to ensure a completely safe ablation. The surgeon then opens the abdomen to perform the oophorectomy.
Side effects and menopause
In premenopausal women, removal of both ovaries will necessarily result in early menopause and all the inconveniences that go with it: hot flashes, changes in libido, vaginal dryness, temporary irritability, weight gain …
In a young woman who has had only one ovary removed, menopause does not occur: she remains fertile and can very well become pregnant and have a normal pregnancy. However, the psychological impact of an ovarian removal should not be overlooked.
Possible complications after surgery
In the majority of cases, an oophorectomy is not followed by major complications. However, the risks are the same as for any operation: intolerance to anesthesia, infection …
Another risk is that the newly operated cyst will come back in the weeks, months or years that follow. Hence the interest of regular gynecological follow-up if you have a history or if you feel abnormal pain.