Hysterectomy is the surgical removal of the woman’s womb which removes entire or part of the uterus. It is an effective treatment for many conditions, including cancer and excessive menstrual bleeding. Nevertheless, there are potential risks of the procedure that should be considered along with the benefits.
According to a new finding from Duke University researchers, younger women who underwent hysterectomy have a doubled risk of premature menopause.
The Duke team enrolled nearly 900 women aged 30 to 47 at two hospitals, Duke University Hospital and Durham Regional Hospital. 465 of them were healthy women who did not undergo surgery. While 406 other women had undergo hysterectomy that spared at least one ovary. All of the participants were given blood tests and questionnaires by researchers for five years.
Preserving the ovaries while removing uterus is a way to allow woman’s hormone production continue to function. Yet despite preserving the ovaries, the Duke team found that 14.8% of women who had a hysterectomy experienced menopause over the course of the study, compared to 8% of women who had no surgery.
The risk for menopause was highest among women who had one ovary removed along with their uterus, but it remained elevated even in women who both ovaries stayed in place. The researchers estimated that menopause occurred approximately two years earlier in women who underwent hysterectomy. Early menopause – either from surgery or other factors that halt egg production – has been linked to increased risk of osteoporosis, heart disease, and other health problems.
“It’s unknown what triggers the ovaries stop to function after a hysterectomy,” said lead researcher, Patricia G. Moorman, PhD, MSPH, an associate professor in the Department of Community and Family Medicine at Duke University. “Some have hypothesized that surgery interfere the blood flow to the ovaries, so the surgery leads to premature ovarian failure. While others have speculated it’s not the surgery, but the underlying condition preceding the surgery that causes it. Until now, it’s unresolved.”
Moorman hopes his team’s findings could raise awareness of the issue so women who are considering hysterectomy for fibroids or other conditions may want to explore other treatment options for their condition considering the possibility of menopause earlier.
This study has been published in the December issue of the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology.