What is an Ovariectomy?

An ovariectomy, or oophorectomy, is a procedure in which a surgeon removes a female's ovaries. Humans as well as animals can receive an ovariectomy. When performed on animals, we call this procedure spaying, and it is a method of sterilization.

Women do not typically undergo an oophorectomy for birth control purposes, however several health conditions may call for this medical procedure. Women who develop ovarian cancer will undergo an ovariectomy. The procedure also treats the pain associated with ovarian cysts. A woman undergoing a hysterectomy, which is the removal of the uterus, may also have her ovaries removed.

Ovaries not only release eggs for fertilization, but also produce female hormones. An ovariectomy causes a variety of physical changes do to the sudden changes in hormone levels. A woman who has her ovaries surgically removed before she undergoes menopause will experience premature menopause. She will suffer from the same conditions that a menopausal woman has, such as hot flashes, vaginal dryness, and an increase in her risk of developing heart disease. This is something to consider when making the decision on whether an oophorectomy is the best choice for a particular health concern.

Ovariectomies require overnight hospitalization. Anyone undergoing this surgical procedure will typically stay in the hospital for several days. The length of time depends on factors such as why the procedure was necessary, and the type of ovariectomy performed. A traditional ovariectomy uses a large incision in the abdomen. Given the amount of use abdominal muscles receive in everyday life, it is easy to see that this procedure requires a longer hospital and recovery period.

Laparoscopic surgery is less invasive, and the recovery period is typically shorter. The surgeon will access the ovaries through several small incisions, and may require assistance from a robotic camera. Recovery is quicker after laparoscopic surgery, but the surgical choice is determined based on the health condition that led to the surgery, and the surgeon's recommendation.

After ovariectomy surgery, expect discomfort and some down time. Women who undergo laparoscopic surgery may feel comfortable resuming everyday activities within two weeks, while women who undergo the traditional open ovariectomy may require six or more weeks to feel back to normal. Regardless of how quickly the healing process occurs, it is important to discuss when to resume exercise, tub baths, and sexual intercourse with your physician.

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