An ovarian cystectomy is a surgical procedure to remove cysts on the ovaries. A cyst is a sac of fluid that can develop inside the ovaries. They can either be benign or cancerous. Typically, a noncancerous ovarian cyst can be removed while leaving the ovaries intact, which means that natural conception is still possible. If the growths are cancerous, however, the entire ovary or both ovaries may need to be removed.
Ovarian cysts can recur even after they are surgically removed. They could return on the ovary that had the operation, or on the other ovary. The only way to eliminate the risk of recurring cysts is to remove both ovaries via oophorectomy.
When is an Ovarian Cystectomy Performed?
Ovarian cysts are fairly common. Most cysts are not harmful and usually resolve on their own. However, some cysts can hinder fertility, cause symptoms, or become cancerous.
An ovarian cystectomy may be recommended if:
- The patient has cysts or other masses in both ovaries
- An ovarian cyst has not shrunk or disappeared after 3 months
- A cyst is larger than 3 inches in diameter
- A cyst appears to be abnormal or malignant
- Your doctor suspects ovarian cancer
Furthermore, if you have an ovarian cyst, your doctor may recommend an ovarian cystectomy if you also:
- Take birth control pills
- Have not yet started your period (children or teenagers)
- Have gone through menopause
How are Ovarian Cystectomies Performed?
An ovarian cystectomy can be performed in one of two ways.
Your doctor will make a large incision in your abdomen and conduct open surgery through the incision. This is often a good choice if there is the possibility of cancer, since the large opening gives the doctor a clear view of all the pelvic organs.
In this procedure, the doctor makes a few small incisions in the abdomen, and inserts the surgical tools through these holes. One instrument is called a laparoscope. It is a thin, flexible instrument with a lighted camera at the end, which guides the surgeon through the procedure. The tissue is removed through these small incisions.
Both procedures are performed under general anesthesia. Generally, an abdominal surgery carries greater risks for infection or damage to tissue. However it is a better choice when there is a large amount of tissue to be removed, or if the doctor needs to see all of the organs clearly. Laparoscopic surgeries usually have quicker healing times and the patient experiences less pain.
Risks of Ovarian Cystectomy
An ovarian cystectomy is a relatively safe procedure, but every surgery carries some risk. Risks of ovarian cystectomy include:
- Recurring ovarian cysts
- Pelvic pain
- Adhesions – scar tissue that causes the pelvic organs to stick together
- Damage to the bladder, bowel, or other pelvic tissue
Ovarian Cystectomy Recovery
After your surgery, you may need to stay in the hospital for a few days. As soon as you are able, you should stand up and walk for a few minutes to improve your circulation. This is to prevent possible blood clots in the legs.
Be sure to get plenty of rest as well as some light exercise in the days and weeks following your surgery. Avoid any heavy lifting or rigorous exercise. If you have had an abdominal surgery, you should be able to return to your normal activities after 4-6 weeks. For a laparoscopy, you may be fully recovered as soon as 2 weeks after the procedure.