Preparing for ovarian cyst removal
Your surgeon will explain how to prepare for your operation. If you smoke, for example, you’ll be asked to stop. Smoking increases your risk of getting an infection after surgery, which can slow down your recovery. It can also lead to complications.
Ovarian cysts are usually removed by keyhole surgery as a day-case procedure. This means you can go home on the same day. The operation is done under general anaesthesia. If you have a general anaesthesic, you’ll be asleep during the operation. You’ll be asked to follow fasting instructions. This means not eating or drinking, usually for about six hours, before your surgery. It’s important to follow your anaesthetist’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, including any pain you might have. If you’re unsure about anything, don’t be afraid to ask. No question is too small. It’s important that you feel fully informed so you feel happy to give your consent for the procedure to go ahead. You may be asked to do this by signing a consent form.
What are the alternatives to ovarian cyst removal?
If an ovarian cyst isn’t causing you any symptoms, your gynaecologist may suggest simply keeping an eye on it rather than having any treatment. You’ll be asked to attend regular ultrasound scan appointments to check whether the cyst changes in size. If you’re under 50, most ovarian cysts are likely to go away on their own within two or three months.
What happens during ovarian cyst removal?
Simple or small cysts can usually be removed by keyhole surgery. If you’re having keyhole surgery, your surgeon will make two or three small cuts (between 5mm and 1cm long). One will be near your belly button and two will be lower down, usually one on each side. They’ll pass small instruments and a tube-like telescopic camera (called a laparoscope) through the cuts. This procedure is known as laparoscopy. Your surgeon will then examine your ovaries and remove the cyst. The cuts on your skin are closed with glue or stitches.
Sometimes your surgeon may need to change your keyhole procedure to open surgery. This is when a single, large cut is made in your lower abdomen (tummy) to reach your ovary. This will only happen if they’re unable to complete the operation safely using just keyhole surgery. It’s more likely to happen if the cyst is very large or there’s a chance it may be cancerous. Under some circumstances, your whole ovary may need to be removed during the procedure.
What to expect afterwards
Having a general anaesthesic affects everyone differently. You may find that you’re not so coordinated or that it’s difficult to think clearly. This should pass within 24 hours. In the meantime, don’t drive, drink alcohol, operate machinery or sign anything important. Always follow your surgeon’s advice.
You may need to rest until the effects of the anaesthetic have worn off. You may also need some pain relief to help ease any discomfort.
You’ll usually be able to go home when you feel ready. Arrange for someone to drive you home and have a friend or relative stay with you overnight.
Your nurse will give you some advice about caring for your healing wounds before you go home. They may also give you some painkillers to take. You may be given a date for a follow-up appointment.
If your surgeon used glue or dissolvable stitches, these will disappear on their own. Other stitches may need to be removed by the practice nurse at your GP surgery. This will usually be around five to seven days after your operation.
Recovering from ovarian cyst removal
It takes time for your body to heal after surgery. Everyone is different. But you’ll usually feel well enough to go back to your normal activities or work a week after the procedure. The time it takes to recover will depend on whether you had keyhole or open surgery. 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.
Side-effects of ovarian cyst removal
After your surgery, you may have some side-effects. These should be mostly temporary and may include:
- pain or discomfort in your lower tummy for a few days after your operation
- some pain in your shoulders
- a small amount of vaginal bleeding for up to 48 hours
- feeling more tired than usual for a few days
Complications of ovarian cyst removal
Complications are when more serious, unexpected problems occur during or after your procedure.
Most women recover well after ovarian cyst removal. Keyhole surgery causes fewer complications and has a faster recovery time than open surgery.
Possible complications of any type of surgery include bleeding or a blood clot, usually in a vein in your leg (deep vein thrombosis – DVT). You could also develop an infection.
Ovarian cyst removal can cause damage to other organs, such as your bowel, ureter or bladder, but this is unusual. Your surgeon will try to preserve your ovaries so you can have children, but this may not always be possible. See our FAQ on fertility for more information.
You should contact your surgeon if you develop any of the following symptoms:
- tummy pain that’s getting worse
- a high temperature, especially if you’ve also lost your appetite or are sick
- red or painful skin around your scars
- burning or stinging when you pass urine, or passing urine more often
- pain, swelling, redness or a feeling of heat on your legs
FAQ: I'm pregnant. Can my ovarian cyst be removed?
An ovarian cyst is unlikely to harm your baby during pregnancy. Your surgeon will only advise you to have the cyst removed if it's causing pain or there’s a risk it’s cancerous.
Ovarian cysts are usually harmless and go away on their own without treatment. If you’re pregnant and have an ovarian cyst, your surgeon will usually wait until you're 14 weeks’ pregnant before deciding whether to remove it.
You won’t need any treatment if the cyst isn’t causing you any pain or discomfort and there’s no sign it could be cancerous. Instead, your cysts will be monitored regularly with ultrasound scans.
If the cyst is large, painful, shows signs of twisting (also known as torsion) or being cancerous, your surgeon will recommend you have keyhole surgery to remove it. Keyhole surgery is safe during pregnancy for you and your baby, but all procedures have some risks. Your surgeon will explain these risks to you.
FAQ: Can I use contraception after my surgery?
If you’ve had an ovarian cyst removed, there’s no reason why you can't use contraception immediately after surgery. Your doctor will discuss with you the methods of contraception first to find out which one is best for you. They may suggest you use a type of hormonal contraception called the combined oral contraceptive pill.
Ovarian cysts are fluid-filled sacs (pockets) that can grow in or on your ovaries after an egg is released. The combined oral contraceptive pill stops your ovaries from releasing an egg each month. This reduces your chances of having ovarian cysts. But if you already have ovarian cysts, taking it won’t make these disappear more quickly.
The combined oral contraceptive pill isn’t suitable for everyone and can cause side-effects. Your GP will be able to advise which type of contraceptive is best for you. It’s important to know that some contraceptives, such as the progesterone-only contraceptives, can actually increase your chance of getting ovarian cysts. For more information, talk to your GP.
FAQ: Will I still be fertile with only one ovary?
Yes. You can still get pregnant with one ovary if your remaining ovary is working normally.
You have two ovaries, one on each side of your uterus. Your ovaries contain your eggs and also make the female hormone oestrogen. Each month, one of your ovaries releases an egg. This is called ovulation. Oestrogen helps to trigger ovulation.
Your whole ovary may be removed if your cyst is cancerous or your ovary is damaged. This surgical procedure is called an oophorectomy. If only one of your ovaries is removed, your body can still make oestrogen and your remaining ovary can release eggs. So you’re still fertile. But if both of your ovaries are removed (a bilateral oophorectomy), you won’t be able to get pregnant. This means you’ll have an early menopause and will need to have hormone replacement therapy (HRT) to replace the oestrogen in your body.
Talk to your surgeon if you’re worried about your fertility, especially if you’re planning to have children in the future, or plan to have more.
- Ovarian cysts. BMJ Best Practice. bestpractice.bmj.com, last updated April 2015
- Benign ovarian tumours. PatientPlus. www.patient.info/patientplus, last checked January 2015
- Ovarian cysts. Medscape. www.emedicine.medscape.com, updated February 2015
- Ovarian cystectomy. Medscape. emedicine.medscape.com, updated January 2015
- Smoking and Surgery, Action on Smoking and Health, www.ash.org.uk, published April 2016
- Laparoscopy. Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists. 2015. www.rcog.org.uk, accessed May 2016
- Having surgery. Royal College of Surgeons. www.rcseng.ac.uk, accessed May 2016
- Nursing patients requiring preoperative care. Oxford Handbook of Adult Nursing (online). Oxford Medicine Online. www.oxfordmedicine.com, published August 2009
- Benign ovarian masses. The MSD Manuals. www.msdmanuals.com, last full review/revision July 2014
- Anaesthesia explained. The Royal College of Anaesthetists. 5th ed. November 2015. www.rcoa.ac.uk, accessed May 2016
- Operative laparoscopy. Medscape. emedicine.medscape.com, updated December 2015
- Ovarian tumours and fibroids in pregnancy. PatientPlus. www.patient.info/patientplus, last checked October 2015
- Sexual health and contraception. Oxford Handbook of General Practice (online). 4th ed. Oxford Medicine Online. www.oxfordmedicine.com, published March 2014
- Combined oral contraceptive pill (first prescription). PatientPlus. www.patient.info/patientplus, last checked November 2014
- Ovary anatomy. Medscape. emedicine.medscape.com, updated October 2013
- Female reproductive endocrinology. The MSD Manuals. www.msdmanuals.com, last full review April 2013
- Gynaecology. Oxford Handbook of General Practice (online). 4th ed. Oxford Medicine Online. www.oxfordmedicine.com, published March 2014
- Management of suspected ovarian masses in premenopausal women: Green-top guideline no.62. Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, November 2011. www.rcog.org
- Personal communication, Robin Crawford, Consultant Gynaecologist, July 2016
- Laparoscopic ovarian surgery. Society of Laparoendoscopic Surgeons. laproscopy.blogs.com, accessed August 2016
- Progesterone-only contraceptive pill. PatientPlus. patient.info/patientplus, last checked November 2014
- Hormone replacement therapy (including benefits and risks). PatientPlus. patient.info/patientplus, last checked February 2016
We’d love to know what you think about what you’ve just been reading and looking at – we’ll use it to improve our information. If you’d like to give us some feedback, our short form below will take just a few minutes to complete. And if there's a question you want to ask that hasn't been answered here, please submit it to us. Although we can't respond to specific questions directly, we’ll aim to include the answer to it when we next review this topic.
Let us know what you think using our short feedback form
Reviewed by Laura Blanks, Specialist Health Editor, Bupa Health Content Team, July 2016
Expert reviewer, Mr Robin Crawford, Consultant Gynaecologist
Next review due July 2019
Let us know what you think using our short feedback form
About our health information
At Bupa we produce a wealth of free health information for you and your family. We believe that trustworthy information is essential in helping you make better decisions about your health and care. Here are just a few of the ways in which our core editorial principles have been recognised.
We are certified by the Information Standard. This quality mark identifies reliable, trustworthy producers and sources of health information.
What our readers say about us
But don't just take our word for it; here's some feedback from our readers.
“Simple and easy to use website - not alarming, just helpful.”
“It’s informative but not too detailed. I like that it’s factual and realistic about the conditions and the procedures involved. It’s also easy to navigate to areas that you specifically want without having to read all the information.”
“Good information, easy to find, trustworthy.”
Meet the team
Head of Health Content
- Dylan Merkett – Lead Editor
- Graham Pembrey - Lead Editor
- Laura Blanks – Specialist Editor, Quality
- Michelle Harrison – Specialist Editor, Insights
- Natalie Heaton – Specialist Editor, User Experience
- Fay Jeffery – Web Editor
- Marcella McEvoy – Specialist Editor, Content Portfolio
- Alice Rossiter – Specialist Editor (on Maternity Leave)
Our core principles
All our health content is produced in line with our core editorial principles – readable, reliable, relevant – which are represented by our diagram.
In a nutshell, our information is jargon-free, concise and accessible. We know our audience and we meet their health information needs, helping them to take the next step in their health and wellbeing journey.
We use the best quality and most up-to-date evidence to produce our information. Our process is transparent and validated by experts – both our users and medical specialists.
We know that our users want the right information at the right time, in the way that suits them. So we review our content at least every three years to keep it fresh. And we’re embracing new technology and social media so they can get it whenever and wherever they choose.
Here are just a few of the ways in which the quality of our information has been recognised.
The Information Standard certification scheme
You will see the Information Standard quality mark on our content. This is a certification programme, supported by NHS England, that was developed to ensure that public-facing health and care information is created to a set of best practice principles.
It uses only recognised evidence sources and presents the information in a clear and balanced way. The Information Standard quality mark is a quick and easy way for you to identify reliable and trustworthy producers and sources of information.
Certified by the Information Standard as a quality provider of health and social care information. Bupa shall hold responsibility for the accuracy of the information they publish and neither the Scheme Operator nor the Scheme Owner shall have any responsibility whatsoever for costs, losses or direct or indirect damages or costs arising from inaccuracy of information or omissions in information published on the website on behalf of Bupa.
British Medical Association (BMA) patient information awards
We have received a number of BMA awards for different assets over the years. Most recently, in 2013, we received a 'commended' award for our online shared decision making hub.
If you have any feedback on our health information, we would love to hear from you. Please contact us via email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Or you can write to us:
Health Content Team
Battle Bridge House
300 Grays Inn Road