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Ovary-Saving Hysterectomy Linked to Early Menopause

THURSDAY, Nov. 17 (HealthDay News) --Younger women who have a hysterectomy that spares the ovaries are almost twice as likely to go through early menopause as women who do not have their uteruses removed, according to a new study.

"Hysterectomy is a common treatment for many conditions, including fibroids and excessive bleeding," said the study's lead author, Patricia G. Moorman, an associate professor in the department of community and family medicine at Duke University in Durham, N.C., in a Duke news release. "Most women are very satisfied with the results of a hysterectomy. But this is a potential risk of the surgery that should be considered along with the benefit."

In conducting the study, published in the December issue of the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology, Duke researchers followed roughly 900 women between 30 and 47 years old for five years. About half of the women had a hysterectomy, but kept at least one ovary to retain hormone production and not increase their risk for bone loss, heart disease and other health problems.

Despite keeping an ovary, the study found that nearly 15 percent of the women who had hysterectomies experienced menopause over the course of the study, compared with only 8 percent of the women who didn't have the surgery.

Women who had one ovary removed were at the greatest risk for menopause, but even women who kept both ovaries were at increased risk, the study noted. The researchers estimated menopause for these women occurred about two years earlier than for their peers who didn't have a hysterectomy.

What causes a woman's ovaries to shut down after a hysterectomy is still unknown, the study's authors added.

"Some have hypothesized that surgery disrupts the blood flow to the ovaries, so the surgery leads to early ovarian failure," said Moorman. "Others have speculated it's not the surgery, but the underlying condition preceding the surgery that causes it. Right now, it's unresolved."

The researchers concluded the study confirms that early menopause is a potential risk associated with hysterectomy.

"This could potentially change practice because women who are considering hysterectomy for fibroids or other problems may want to explore other treatment options for their condition if they know they may go through menopause earlier," said Moorman.

More information

The U.S. National Institutes of Health provides more information on hysterectomy.

-- Mary Elizabeth Dallas

SOURCE: Duke University Medical Center, news release, Nov. 14, 2011

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