When is it appropriate to remove ovaries in hysterectomy?



This story appears courtesy of MDedge News.

By Randy Dotinga
[email protected]



LAS VEGAS – The removal of both ovaries during hysterectomy – bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy (BSO) – has declined sharply in popularity as physicians have become more aware of its risks.

Still, “we’re still seeing a relatively high rate of inappropriate BSO,” Amanda Nickles Fader, MD, said, despite “the many benefits of ovarian conservation. Strong consideration should be made for maintaining normal ovaries in premenopausal women who are not at higher genetic risk of ovarian cancer.”

Dr. Nickles Fader, director of the Kelly gynecologic oncology service and the director of the center for rare gynecologic cancers at Johns Hopkins Hospital, Baltimore, who spoke at the Pelvic Anatomy and Gynecologic Surgery Symposium, urged gynecologists to understand the data about ovarian conservation in hysterectomy and carefully counsel patients.

“We can counsel patients with 100% certainty that BSO absolutely reduces ovarian and fallopian tube cancer rates. That’s a given,” she said. “Women get very excited about that, but you’ve got to be careful to counsel them about the flip side: The overall benefit may not be there when you consider the other morbidity and mortality that may occur because of this removal.”

As she noted, multiple retrospective, prospective, and observational studies have linked ovary removal to a variety of heightened risks, especially on the cardiac front. She highlighted a 2009 study of nearly 30,000 nurses who’d undergone hysterectomy for benign disease, about which the authors wrote that, “compared with ovarian conservation, bilateral oophorectomy at the time of hysterectomy for benign disease is associated with a decreased risk of breast and ovarian cancer but an increased risk of all-cause mortality, fatal and nonfatal coronary heart disease, and lung cancer.” No age group gained a survival benefit from oophorectomy (Obstet Gynecol. 2009 May;113[5]:1027-37).

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Meanwhile, over the past decade, the “pendulum has swung” toward ovary conservation, at least in premenopausal women, Dr. Nickles Fader said at the meeting jointly provided by Global Academy for Medical Education and the University of Cincinnati. Global Academy and this news organization are owned by the same company.

A 2016 analysis of health statistics in five U.S. Eastern and Midwestern states found that, rates of hospital-based, hysterectomy-alone procedures grew by 15% from 2005 to 2013, while rates of oophorectomy alone and hysterectomy/oophorectomy combination procedures declined by 12% and 29%, respectively.

Still, Dr. Nickles Fader said, as many as 60% of hysterectomies are still performed in conjunction with oophorectomy.

Ovary removal, of course, can be appropriate when patients are at risk of ovarian cancer. Hereditary ovarian cancer accounts for up to 25% of epithelial ovarian cancer, she said, and research suggests that risk-reducing surgery is an effective preventative approach when high-penetrance genes are present. However, the value of the surgery is less clear in regard to moderate-penetrance genes.

Dr. Nickles Fader pointed to guidelines from the National Comprehensive Cancer Network that specify genes and syndromes that should trigger risk-reducing salpingo-oophorectomy, hysterectomy, or hysterectomy and risk-reducing salpingo-oophorectomy after childbirth.

Researchers are exploring salpingectomy – fallopian tube removal – as a possible replacement for oophorectomy. Dr. Nickles Fader highlighted a small pilot study published in 2018 that reported “BRCA mutation carriers who underwent bilateral salpingectomy had no intraoperative complications, were satisfied with their procedure choice, and had decreased cancer worry and anxiety after the procedure.”

Moving forward, she said, research will provide more insight into preventative options such as removing fallopian tubes alone instead of ovaries. “We’re starting to learn, and will probably know in the next 10-15 years, whether oophorectomy is necessary for all high-risk and moderate-risk women or if we can get away with removing their tubes and giving them the maximal health benefits of ovarian conservation.”

Dr. Nickles Fader reported consulting for Ethicon Endosurgery.


Global Academy for Medical Education and MDedge News are owned by the same parent company.