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What is Surgical Menopause

Updated on November 30, 2012
Diagram showing the relationship of the ovary, fallopian tube, uterus and cervix.
Diagram showing the relationship of the ovary, fallopian tube, uterus and cervix. | Source

Definition of Surgical Menopause

Surgical menopause simply means the artificial onset of menopause due to surgical removal of the ovaries.

The end result is the same, cessation of menstruation along with significant hormonal changes

Natural Menopause

Menopause, in the past referred to as "the change of life", is a naturally occurring event. The physiologic changes that signal the onset of menopause become evident usually when a woman is in her forties. Near age fifty, most females stop having menstrual periods.

Menopause refers to the whole period of a woman's life when she doesn't menstruate. However, when we commonly speak of menopause, we usually talk about the phase of change when menopause starts. This is more correctly called perimenopause, but again, most women refer to these changes as menopause. At this time, a woman stops ovulating and is no longer fertile. Because of the drop in estrogen levels, many changes occur that are noticed by most women and quite distressing to others.

The normal perimenopausal time can last months to years with gradual changes for the woman. Changes in the levels of estrogen and other hormones occur. About 3/4 of women report symptoms, but for some, the changes are gradual and mild and either go largely unnoticed, or are not bothersome.

The most common symptoms, when reported, in the perimenopausal phase are:

  • Hot flashes or heat intolerance
  • Night sweats
  • Reduced sex drive
  • Mood swings and irritability
  • Vaginal dryness
  • Fatigue

Features of Menopause

Surgical Menopause

In contrast, surgical menopause is NOT a gradual process. The ovaries are gone upon awakening from the anesthesia and the changes associated with perimenopause/menopause become evident quite quickly.

All of the changes that would happen slowly over time leading to natural menopause, occur abruptly and rapidly when the ovaries are removed.

Because of the suddenness of the changes, the symptoms of menopause can be quite severe following surgical procedures that induce menopause.

Reasons for Ovarian Surgery

Most of time, if both ovaries are removed resulting in surgical menopause, it is usually due to cancer or the threat of cancer.

A hysterectomy may or may not include the removal of the ovaries, depending on the reason for the surgery. The ovaries will be left behind whenever possible to prevent surgical menopause and decrease the risks that accompany the hormonal changes that occur when ovaries are removed.

Surgical excision of a ovary is called an oophorectomy. If both are taken it's called a bilateral oophorectomy. Because the fallopian tubes are usually removed at the same time, the surgery often is called a salpingo-oophorectomy. BSO stands for bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy and means that both Fallopian tubes and ovaries are removed.

Aside from that, the ovaries may be removed during other abdominal surgeries.

Hormone replacement therapy can ease the sudden, brutal symptoms of surgical menopause.

Talk to your doctor about whether short or long term hormone replacement is the right choice for you.
Talk to your doctor about whether short or long term hormone replacement is the right choice for you. | Source

Treatment for Surgical Menopause

Because the symptoms and effects of surgical menopause are so much more sudden and potentially severe than 'natural' menopause, hormone replacement therapy is often recommended, at least for a while after surgery.

Estrogen, progesterone and testosterone are all important hormones produced by the ovaries. They can be prescribed in appropriate amounts to ease the transition to the menopausal state. The decision of whether or not to continue the hormones is up to the patient, hopefully after informed discussion with her doctor.

Long Term Implications of Surgical Menopause

The long term issues with surgical menopause are the same as natural menopause. Over time, women become more susceptible to problems like heart disease and osteoporosis. Other physical changes occur and can be bothersome.

There is a great deal of controversy about hormone replacement therapy and its risks and benefits. Many individual factors weigh into this decision and should be discussed with your doctor.


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    • TahoeDoc profile image

      TahoeDoc 5 years ago from Lake Tahoe, California

      Thanks all!

      Nettlemere- thanks for reminding me to add a few sentences about hysterectomy and that the ovaries may or may not be removed (they will be left intact whenever possible) during a hysterectomy.

      Jillian- You have certainly been through a lot. By all accounts, surgical menopause and the full, sudden onslaught of symptoms is miserable.

    • Jillian Barclay profile image

      Jillian Barclay 5 years ago from California, USA

      Excellent and, as always, very thorough and informative! You have the unique ability to simplify medical information so that everyday people can understand with no difficulty. Surgical menopause is tough, speaking from experience. I spent a year after surgery being miserable, most nights becoming totally drenched in sweat. While that was bad, mid-day (while at work) sweats were embarassing. I had a fan and not a tiny one, on my desk, pointed at my face, usually going full blast, all day long.

      I had the unfortunate experience of having surgery and being started on hormones, and shortly thereafter, having them abruptly taken away back when the initial panic about the dangers of hormone therapy hit the airways.

    • eHealer profile image

      Deborah 5 years ago from Las Vegas

      Excellent hub Tahoedoc, this is so interesting and informative. So many women don't have this important information. I will share. Thanks!

    • LauraGSpeaks profile image

      LauraGSpeaks 5 years ago from Raleigh, NC

      Very interesting info. I am interested in learning more about the effects of hormone replacement therapy. A few years ago it seemed that this was found to be a cause of breast cancer, yet it seems that women have no choice but to take this medicine so they can function somewhat normally.

    • Nettlemere profile image

      Nettlemere 5 years ago from Burnley, Lancashire, UK

      Interesting and useful. Out of interest what happens with a hysterectomy? Are the ovaries usually left intact for that?

    • ChitrangadaSharan profile image

      Chitrangada Sharan 5 years ago from New Delhi, India

      Great hub and useful information. I had no idea, menopause is done surgically also. Thanks for sharing your practical knowledge.