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Ovarian cyst removal

Ovarian cysts are fluid-filled sacs (pockets) that can occur inside or on the surface of your ovaries. Ovarian cysts are removed using laparoscopy (keyhole surgery).

You will meet the surgeon carrying out your procedure to discuss your care. It may differ from what is described here as it will be designed to meet your individual needs.

About ovarian cyst removal

Ovarian cysts are common in women of childbearing age. Most ovarian cysts are harmless and go away on their own. You may need surgery to remove ovarian cysts if they cause pain or discomfort.

What are the alternatives to ovarian cyst removal?

If the cysts aren't causing any symptoms, your doctor may suggest watchful waiting. You will be asked to attend regular ultrasound appointments to check whether the cyst changes size. Most ovarian cysts are likely to go away on their own within a couple of months.

Preparing for ovarian cyst removal

Your surgeon will explain how to prepare for your operation. For example, if you smoke, you will be asked to stop as smoking increases your risk of getting a chest or wound infection, which can slow your recovery.

Ovarian cysts are usually removed as a day-case procedure. This means you have the procedure and go home the same day. The operation is done under general anaesthesia. This means you will be asleep during the procedure. You will be asked to follow fasting instructions. This means not eating or drinking, typically for about six hours beforehand. However, it's important to follow your anaesthetist or surgeon's advice.

You may be asked to wear compression stockings to help prevent blood clots forming in the veins in your legs.

Your surgeon will discuss with you what will happen before, during and after your procedure, and any pain you might have. This is your opportunity to understand what will happen, and you can help yourself by preparing questions to ask about the risks, benefits and any alternatives to the procedure. This will help you to be informed, so you can give your consent for the procedure to go ahead, which you may be asked to do by signing a consent form.

What happens during ovarian cyst removal?

Your surgeon will make three small cuts (about 1cm long) near your belly button. He or she will pass special instruments and a tube-like telescopic camera (called a laparoscope) through the cuts. Your surgeon will then examine your ovaries and remove the cysts. The cuts on your skin are closed with dissolvable stitches.

There is a chance your surgeon may need to convert your keyhole procedure to open surgery (a single, large cut is made in your lower abdomen to reach your ovary). This will only happen if he or she is unable to complete the operation safely using keyhole surgery.

What to expect afterwards

You will need to rest until the effects of the anaesthetic have passed. You may need pain relief to help with any discomfort as the anaesthetic wears off.

You will usually be able to go home when you feel ready. You will need to arrange for someone to drive you home. Try to have a friend or relative stay with you for the first 24 hours after your operation.

General anaesthesia temporarily affects your co-ordination and reasoning skills, so you must not drive, drink alcohol, operate machinery or sign legal documents for 24 hours afterwards. If you're in any doubt about driving, contact your motor insurer so that you're aware of their recommendations, and always follow your surgeon’s advice.

Your nurse will give you some advice about caring for your healing wounds before you go home. You may be given a date for a follow-up appointment.

The length of time your dissolvable stitches will take to disappear depends on what type you have. However, for this procedure they should usually disappear in about two to three weeks.

Recovering from ovarian cyst removal

It usually takes about two weeks to make a full recovery from ovarian cyst removal, but this varies between individuals, so it's important to follow your surgeon's advice.

If you need pain relief, you can take over-the-counter painkillers such as paracetamol or ibuprofen. Always read the patient information that comes with your medicine and if you have any questions, ask your pharmacist for advice.

What are the risks?

As with every procedure, there are some risks associated with ovarian cyst removal. We have not included the chance of these happening as they are specific to you and differ for every person. Ask your surgeon to explain how these risks apply to you.

Side-effects

Side-effects are the unwanted but mostly temporary effects you may get after having the procedure.

After keyhole surgery, you will have some bruising and pain in your abdomen. You may also have some pain in the tips of your shoulders. The pain in your shoulders is known as referred pain and usually improves within 48 hours.

Complications

Complications are when problems occur during or after the operation. The possible complications of any operation include an unexpected reaction to the anaesthetic, infection, excessive bleeding or developing a blood clot, usually in a vein in the leg (deep vein thrombosis).

Specific complications of ovarian cyst removal are uncommon but can include damage to other organs in your abdomen (such as your bowel, bladder, major blood vessels, womb, one or both of your ovaries or fallopian tubes).

You should contact your doctor if you develop symptoms such as:

  • severe lower abdominal pain or swelling
  • a high temperature
  • dark or unpleasant smelling vaginal discharge
  • unpleasant smelling discharge, pain or swelling around your belly button

If you have these symptoms, it’s possible you may have developed an infection and will need treatment.

 

Produced by Krysta Munford, Bupa Health Information Team, June 2012.

For answers to frequently asked questions on this topic, see FAQs.

For sources and links to further information, see Resources.

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  • This information was published by Bupa's Health Information Team and is based on reputable sources of medical evidence. It has been reviewed by appropriate medical or clinical professionals. Photos are only for illustrative purposes and do not reflect every presentation of a condition. The content is intended only for general information and does not replace the need for personal advice from a qualified health professional. For more details on how we produce our content and its sources, visit the about our health information page.

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