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May 14, 2013

Removal of Uterus and Ovaries Does Not Increase Heart Disease Risk in Women

Recent study alleviates worries that hysterectomy and oophorectomy may increase cardiovascular risk.

Hysterectomy, a surgical procedure to remove a woman’s uterus, is one of the most common types of medical procedures performed today. Women may choose to have a hysterectomy to relieve symptoms as they approach menopause or to treat medical conditions like cancer. It’s estimated that one in three women in the United States has a hysterectomy by age 60, many of whom also have their ovaries removed through a procedure called oophorectomy.

In the past, studies have had conflicting findings on the impact of these medical procedures on cardiovascular risk, and experts have long worried that they may accelerate women’s risk for heart disease. Fortunately, a recent study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology has helped alleviate these concerns, suggesting that hysterectomies and oophorectomies do not impact women’s cardiovascular risk, after all.

This study used data collected from SWAN—the Study of Women’s Health Across the Nation, which followed thousands of women before, during and after menopause. More than 3,300 women ages 42-52 were enrolled in the study and then followed for about 11 years. Between 1996 and 2008, just over half the women had reached menopause and 183 had undergone either a hysterectomy or a hysterectomy plus oophorectomy. After looking at cardiovascular risk factors like cholesterol and blood pressure, researchers found that a hysterectomy with or without oophorectomy was not strongly associated with risk for heart disease.

Although further research is needed to better understand how these medical procedures may impact heart health, findings are promising. Hysterectomies and oophorectomies are extremely common procedures, and they’re often necessary to treat medical conditions in women as they approach and go through menopause. This study should reassure both women and their healthcare providers that these surgeries are generally safe and not likely to increase cardiovascular risk.
Read the full article in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology

Questions for You to Consider

  • What is a hysterectomy?
  • Hysterectomy is a procedure to remove a woman’s uterus. Hysterectomies are very common, and sometimes performed in combination with an oophorectomy (removal of the ovaries). Women typically undergo a hysterectomy to relieve symptoms as they approach menopause or to treat medical conditions, such as cancer or fibroids.
  • Does undergoing a hysterectomy increase risk for heart disease?
  • Some research has suggested that hysterectomies may accelerate women’s risk for heart disease. However, recent studies have shown that this procedure is not associated with increased cardiovascular risk, reassuring women and providers that hysterectomies are generally safe and won’t negatively affect heart health.

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