An oophorectomy is a surgical procedure that can be used to remove one or both of the ovaries. The ovaries are the almond shaped organs which sit above the uterus that hold the eggs. These organs are also responsible for providing the hormones to control the menstrual cycle. If the ovaries have developed a dangerous condition or are being removed as portion of a larger surgery such as a hysterectomy, this will alter the hormonal pattern in the body which will require an adjustment as time goes on.
Ovaries may need to be removed to help reduce the presence of a dangerous condition. Endometriosis that has overgrown the ovaries may require them to be removed to prevent this tissue from spreading further. You may also need your ovaries removed to stop the spread of ovarian cancer. Some women may also need their ovaries removed if they are at a high risk for breast cancer. A tubo-ovarian abscess or a pus filled growth between the fallopian tube and the ovaries can also require them to be removed to prevent further damage. A twisting of the ovary commonly known as an ovarian torsion may also require the ovary to be removed.
As you prepare for surgery, you will need to drink a clear solution to clean the intestines. You may be ordered to stop eating or limit your intake of liquids for a certain number of hours before the surgery. Certain medications may be restricted as you prepare for the surgery, particularly if they increase your risk of bleeding or will poorly interact with the antibiotics you will need to take after the procedure. Your doctor may also want to take a few final CT scans to help plan the surgery.
Having one or both ovaries removed can render you infertile. If you are unsure if you are ready to stop having children, you will need to talk to the doctor about this risk and any potential options you may have to counteract the infertility. You will still be able to conceive naturally with one working ovary, and those with a functional uterus can also conceive if reproductive technology is used to implant a fertilized egg. You may also have eggs removed and put into storage before your procedure to help ensure your chances to produce biological children.
During the procedure, you will be placed into a state like sleep with anesthetics so you should not be aware of what is going on. The surgeon will make a large incision across the abdomen to make it easy to access the ovaries. Then they will separate the ovaries from the blood supply and surrounding tissue to remove the organ.
If you are only having one ovary removed, you may only need a few small laparoscopic incisions to remove the ovaries. Once these incisions are made, the doctor will insert a camera that will allow them to instruct the surgical tools so the ovary can be removed.
After your procedure, you will need to rest in a recovery room while your anesthesia wears off. You will then move to a regular hospital room where you can wait until you have recovered so you can go home. As soon as you can safely get up and move about, you will be ready to return home.
Any surgery that involved removing an organ will come with a certain level of risk. Complications such as internal bleeding, infection, rupture of a tumor on the ovary or damage to nearby organs may be caused by this surgical procedure. Ovary cells that are accidentally left behind after the surgery can also cause pain or abnormal hormone levels, making a second surgery necessary.
Because removing one or more ovaries will alter the hormone levels in the body, there is a chance that this procedure will result in the early onset of menopause. You may notice classic menopause symptoms such as hot flashes or vaginal dryness onset. In more severe cases, a decreased sex drive, depression, anxiety, memory problems, osteoporosis or premature death can result from removing the ovaries.
The amount of time it will take to return to normal after the surgery will depend on the extent of the procedure. Those that had a very large incision or complications during the surgery can take longer to promote healing and may require a longer hospital stay. Most women who undergo surgery to remove the ovaries can return to normal function within six weeks of the procedure, though women that undergo laparoscopic surgery may be feeling better in up to two weeks.
You may need to restrict certain activities while your reproductive system and abdomen heal from the surgery. Driving, exercise and sexual activities may need to be avoided until your body has had an adequate time to adjust to the stitches and hormone levels. Talk with your doctor about finding a balance between avoiding activity and remaining active enough to promote healthy blood flow to the area so you can manage the best heal time possible.