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Women's Health

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Study: Ovary Removal Doesn’t Raise Heart Risk

But Findings Oppose Earlier Study Linking Ovary Removal During Hysterectomy With Heart Risk

Comparing Studies

Two big differences in the studies were the age of the participants and the length of follow-up.

The average age of the women in the Women’s Health Initiative was 63 at enrollment, while women in the NHS trial were enrolled between the ages of 30 and 55. And WHI participants were followed for an average of eight years, while the nurses were followed for 24 years.

NHS researcher William H. Parker, MD, of the University of California, Los Angeles, says the older age of the women in the WHI trial and the fact that the main intent of the study was to examine the impact of hormone replacement treatments on health could have influenced the outcomes.

The surviving women in the NHS trial have now been followed for more than three decades, and Parker says he plans to present an updated analysis within the next two years.

“At this point, like a lot of medicine, the decision about whether to remove ovaries during hysterectomy is an individual one, with each patient bringing her own set of circumstances to the table,” he tells WebMD.

Arnold agrees.

In an editorial published with the study, she and co-author Graham Colditz, MD, of Washington University School of Medicine, write that the subtle differences in the two studies may be easily overlooked by doctors when they counsel patients about the potential benefits and risks associated with ovary removal during hysterectomy.

Arnold says many women facing this decision may not even fully understand that ovary removal is an elective procedure.

“Doctors need to remember that there are no clear-cut answers for most women,” she says.

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