Oophorectomy- Why ability to conceive is a nature- given gift!

Oophorectomy is a surgical procedure which is carried out for removal of one or both the ovaries. Ovaries are situated in the abdominal region and are responsible for regulation of menstrual periods and ovulation.

The surgery is often combined with other surgeries like a surgery to remove uterus (hysterectomy) or surgery to remove fallopian tubes (salpingectomy). When oophorectomy is combined with salpingectomy, it is known as salpingo-oophorectomy since both the ovaries and fallopian tubes share blood supply.

When both the ovaries are removed in the surgical procedure, it is known as bilateral oophorectomy. When only one ovary is involved, it is termed as unilateral oophorectomy.

Why Oophorectomy is performed?

This surgery of removal of ovaries is performed for a wide range of conditions and disorders. These conditions include ovarian cancer, ovarian tumors or cysts that are usually benign and ovarian torsion- a condition recognized by twisting of ovary. It is also performed in high-risk women to reduce the risk of ovarian cancer and breast cancer. Endometriosis or tubo-ovarian abscess in fallopian tubes and ovaries also require this surgical procedure.

Complications related to oophorectomy

This procedure is usually safe but some complications can occur during or after the procedure. They include bleeding and infection. Nearby organs may get damaged in the procedure. In some cases, ovary cells are retained in the abdomen which may continue to cause pelvic pain and ovarian remnant syndrome in premenopausal women. It may lead to rupture of a tumor as a result of which, cancerous cells are spread to other parts of the body.

Preparing for Oophorectomy

Before conducting this procedure, doctors use ultrasound techniques and CT scans to facilitate the procedure by knowing exact location of ovaries. Medications are given one day before the surgery to clear the intestines. Food intake is also not allowed one day before the surgery and only liquids are administered. Antibiotics course may also be started to prevent possible infections.

The actual surgery

The process of actual removal of ovaries is administered in two ways. In the traditional way, a large incision is made in the abdomen. The ovaries are separated from surrounding tissues and blood supply and removed. On the other hand, 3 to 4 small incisions are made when the surgery is done laparoscopically. The recovery period is usually six weeks or more.

Oophorectomy and Menopause

If both the ovaries are removed, the risk of premature menopause becomes substantially higher. Premenopausal menopause can cause certain complications like depression and anxiety. Some women may experience memory problems. Reduced estrogen exposure no longer protects the body from heart diseases and osteoporosis. Menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes, vaginal dryness and decreased libido are also experienced by some women. The intensity of these problems can be reduced by taking low dosages of hormones. However, HRT is not completely risk free.

Oophorectomy and pregnancy

If one ovary is intact, menstrual period occurs and a woman can conceive naturally. However, if both the ovaries are removed keeping the uterus intact, some assisted reproductive technology is to be used for fertility.

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