Oophorectomy is the surgical removal of an ovary or ovaries. The surgery is also called ovariectomy, but this term has been traditionally used in basic science research describing the surgical removal of ovaries in laboratory animals.
Removal of the ovaries in women is the biological equivalent of castration in males; however, the term castration is only occasionally used in the medical literature to refer to oophorectomy in humans.
In the veterinary sciences, the complete removal of the ovaries, oviducts, uterine horns, and the uterus is called spaying and is a form of sterilization.
In humans, oophorectomy is most often performed due to diseases such as ovarian cysts or cancer; as prophylaxis to reduce the chances of developing ovarian cancer or breast cancer; or in conjunction with removal of the uterus.
The removal of an ovary together with the fallopian tube is called salpingo-oophorectomy or unilateral salpingo-oophorectomy (USO).
When both ovaries and both Fallopian tubes are removed, the term bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy (BSO) is used.
Oophorectomy and salpingo-oophorectomy are not common forms of birth control in humans; more usual is tubal ligation, in which the Fallopian tubes are blocked but the ovaries remain intact.
When performed alone (without hysterectomy), an oophorectomy is generally performed by abdominal laparotomy or laparoscopy.
In many cases, surgical removal of the ovaries is performed concurrently with a hysterectomy.
The formal medical name for removal of a woman's entire reproductive system (ovaries, Fallopian tubes, uterus) is "Total Abdominal Hysterectomy with Bilateral Salpingo-Oophorectomy (TAH-BSO); the more casual term for such a surgery is "ovariohysterectomy".
The term "hysterectomy" is often used to refer to removal of any part of the female reproductive system, including just the ovaries; however, the correct definition of "hysterectomy" is removal of the uterus without removal of the ovaries or Fallopian tubes.
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Last Updated: Feb 1, 2011