Objective: To review the risks and benefits of elective oophorectomy and to make a clinical recommendation for an appropriate age when benefits of this procedure outweigh the risks.
Design: The risks and benefits of oophorectomy as detailed in published articles are reviewed with regard to quality-of-life issues and mortality outcomes in oophorectomized versus non-oophorectomized women from five diseases linked to ovarian hormones (coronary heart disease, ovarian cancer, breast cancer, stroke, and hip fracture).
Results: Numerous reports link oophorectomy to higher rates of cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, hip fractures, dementia, short-term memory impairment, decline in sexual function, decreased positive psychological well-being, adverse skin and body composition changes, and adverse ocular changes, as well as more severe hot flushes and urogenital atrophy. The potential benefits associated with oophorectomy include prevention of ovarian cancer, a decline in breast cancer risk, and a reduced risk of pelvic pain and subsequent ovarian surgery. In our study of long-term mortality after oophorectomy using Markov modeling, preservation of ovaries until women are at least aged 65 years was associated with higher survival rates. For women between ages 50 and 54 with hysterectomy and ovarian preservation, the probability of surviving to age 80 was 62% versus 54% if oophorectomy was performed. This 8% difference in survival is primarily due to fewer women dying from cardiovascular heart disease and/or hip fracture. This survival advantage far outweighs the 0.47% increased mortality rate from ovarian cancer prevented by oophorectomy. If surgery occurred between ages 55 and 59, the survival advantage was 4%. After age 64 there were no significant differences in survival rates. Prior literature supports our conclusion of a benefit over risk for ovarian conservation.
Conclusions: Elective oophorectomy is associated with short-and long-term health consequences that merit serious consideration. For women with an average risk of ovarian cancer, ovarian conservation until at least age 65 seems to benefit long-term survival.