Younger women who undergo hysterectomies are twice at risk of developing menopause early, a study by Duke University researchers has confirmed what many obstetricians and gynaecologists have suspected.
The study is the largest analysis to track over time the actual hormonal impact of woman who had hysterectomies and compare them to women whose uteruses remained intact.
"Hysterectomy is a common treatment for many conditions, including fibroids and excessive bleeding," said Patricia G. Moorman, PhD., MSPH, an associate professor in the Department of Community and Family Medicine at Duke University and lead author of the study.
"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," she stated.
The Duke team enrolled nearly 900 women ages 30 to 47 at two hospitals in Durham, N.C.-Duke University Medical Centre and Durham Regional Hospital - and followed up with blood tests and questionnaires for five years.
Half the women, 465, were healthy controls who had no surgery, while 406 women underwent hysterectomies that spared at least one ovary.
Moorman said doctors have long known that early menopause - either from surgery or from other factors that halt egg production - can increase a woman's risk of osteoporosis, heart disease and other ailments.
Yet despite preserving the ovaries, the Duke team found that 14.8 percent of women in the study who had hysterectomies experienced menopause over the course of the study, compared to 8 percent of women who had no surgery.
The risk for menopause was highest among women who had one ovary removed along with their uterus, but it remained elevated even when both ovaries stayed in place.
The Duke team's analysis estimated that menopause occurred approximately two years earlier in the women who underwent hysterectomy.
The study has been published in the December issue of the journal Obstetrics and Gynecology.