There are two surgical options for ovarian cysts — laparoscopy and laparotomy. Which surgery a doctor recommends will vary based on the size of the cyst and whether they believe it may be cancerous.

Some people may not need surgical invention for an ovarian cyst if it clears on its own or causes no symptoms. However, if it is larger, causing symptoms, or may be precancerous or cancerous, a doctor may recommend surgery to remove it.

Though surgery can help, it is not without some risks, such as fertility issues or accidental damage to other organs in the area. A person should discuss the possible complications and other questions with their doctor before the procedure.

This article reviews information about surgery to remove ovarian cysts, including preparing for, recovery, costs, and more.

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Not all ovarian cysts need a doctor to remove them. Smaller ones often resolve on their own with no need for intervention.

However, a doctor may recommend removing larger cysts and ones that are solid or partially solid. Solid or partially solid cysts may be cancerous, so removing them is a precautionary step.

Some additional reasons a doctor may recommend removing ovarian cysts include:

  • cyst is confirmed as cancerous
  • grows bigger than 10 centimeters
  • grows after menopause
  • ruptures and continues to bleed (rare)
  • symptoms interfere with everyday activities
  • ovary twists (ovarian torsion)
  • cyst is noncancerous but causes symptoms

A person should talk with their doctor and care team about what to expect for the ovarian cyst removal surgery. The office should provide detailed instructions on topics such as:

  • when to stop eating and drinking (typically 6 to 8 hours before surgery)
  • time of the procedure
  • whether the surgery will be a laparoscopy (keyhole surgery) or laparotomy (open surgery)
  • location
  • other planned procedures at time of surgery
  • how long someone can expect to stay in hospital
  • if and when to stop certain medications or supplements

They will also schedule any presurgical testing that a person may need to help determine their eligibility for surgery. A person may need to meet with an anesthetist before the surgery for a consultation.

A person should also plan to have a friend or family member drive and pick them up or stay with them during the procedure. They should plan for some downtime based on the type of procedure they undergo, though a person will typically recover much faster from laparoscopy than from laparotomy.

Ovarian cyst removal surgery has two types: laparoscopy and laparotomy. A description of each appears below.

Laparoscopy

Laparoscopy is a minimally invasive surgery that surgeons can use to remove cysts from the ovaries. A laparoscopic cystectomy involves making one or more small incisions in the abdomen through which the surgical team will insert the tools they need to remove the cyst.

Recovery time is generally quick with a person often able to resume most activities within 5 days.

Though times vary depending on how complicated the procedure may be, surgery often takes around 1 hour and requires the person to stay in a recovery room or post-op room for 2 to 3 hours for monitoring.

Laparotomy

A laparotomy involves making a larger cut into the abdomen to remove the cyst and, in possible cancer cases, the ovary or other tissue. A doctor may recommend a laparotomy for larger cysts or when they suspect cancer.

The procedure requires a larger cut made into the abdomen. A person can expect longer recovery times due to the extent of the surgery. Hospitals may require the person to stay for 1 to 2 nights or more for recovery.

Recovery can vary based on the procedure.

For laparoscopic ovarian cyst removal, a person typically only requires 2 to 3 hours of monitoring post-procedure. They can then go home and typically require between 1 day and 1 week before returning to work and most activities. They may need 1 to 2 weeks before returning to exercise routines.

Recovery from a laparotomy procedure takes longer. A person can expect a 1-to 2-night hospital stay following the procedure. Once home, they will need to avoid strenuous activity for 6 or more weeks.

During recovery, a person should avoid putting pressure or strain on the abdomen.

Recovery time at home can vary. Following a surgical procedure, a person should avoid putting unnecessary strain or pressure on their abdomen.

They should also avoid physical activity for at least 1 week for laparoscopic and around 6 weeks for a laparotomy.

A person should follow all post-operative instructions, including when to take medications for pain, follow-up appointments, and monitoring their incision for signs of infection.

There are three main benefits to surgery to remove ovarian cysts. They include:

  • Symptom relief: Removing the cyst can relieve pressure or pain, bleeding, and other issues that the cyst was causing.
  • Cancer treatment and prevention: Removing a precancerous cyst can help prevent cancer while removing a cancerous cyst can treat it.
  • Reduced risk of ovarian torsion: This is when an ovary twists around the ligaments holding it in place.

Though the procedures may provide symptom relief, they are not without risk. Some potential risks involved with ovarian cyst removal include:

  • damage to bowels
  • damage to bladder
  • fertility issues

Though most cysts do not grow back, some will regrow following surgery. There is also a chance new cysts will grow and develop.

Prior to a procedure, a person may have a lot of questions to ask their doctor or healthcare team. It may help to write some down to organize their thoughts and ensure they do not miss anything important.

Most healthcare teams should have a pre-surgery consultation to review medications, what to expect, recovery, and additional information.

Questions that may be helpful include:

  • When and if to stop medications?
  • When to stop food and drink?
  • Am I a good candidate for laparoscopic surgery?
  • How long do patients typically take to recover?
  • What is post-operative care like? Are pain medications available?
  • What are the costs?
  • Is financial assistance available?
  • Will this affect my chances of becoming pregnant?
  • Will my insurance cover the costs of this surgery?

Costs of ovarian cyst removal surgery and aftercare will vary. Factors that can affect it include:

  • geographic location
  • type of surgery doctors perform
  • hospital stay
  • insurance coverage
  • need for additional medications, such as for pain or antibiotics due to an infection

People should contact their doctor’s office or hospital to get the price they will charge. In some cases, they may offer financial assistance directly, financing, or other ways to save money on the procedure.

Financial help may provide monetary assistance to those who qualify. In some cases, a hospital or health network may offer it directly or allow payment plans.

In other cases, a person may find that working with a third-party agency may help them find discounts on medications (such as for pain) and possibly the procedure itself.

For prescription help, a person can try contacting one or more of the following third-party organizations:

OrganizationWhat they can offerHow to contact
RxHopepatient assistance programsvisit their website here
ConnectiveRxaerie savings card1-844-807-9706
RxOutreachpatient assistance programs1-888-796-1234
Medicareprescription drug plans1-800-633-4227
NeedyMedspatient assistance programs1-800-503-6897
BlinkHealthprescription drug discounts1-833-844-9621
Partnership for Prescription Assistanceprescription assistance service1-888-477-2669
PharmacyCheckercompare prescription drug pricesvisit their website here

For general care help, a person may find one of the following organizations potentially helpful:

OrganizationWhat they doNumber/Website
Pan Foundationpatient assistance programs1-866-316-7263

A person should schedule a follow-up appointment before their procedure. The doctor will need to check their recovery progress and check for signs of complications, such as infection.

A person should also contact their doctor if they develop any unusual side effects that may be related to the procedure. They may include:

  • excessive vaginal bleeding
  • fever
  • pain, discharge, or bleeding from the incision
  • abdominal swelling or pain
  • persistent nausea
  • vomiting
  • inability to hold down food or drink
  • any other unusual symptoms

Surgery for ovarian cysts includes laparoscopy and laparotomy. Laparoscopy is a minimally invasive procedure that typically requires less downtime than a laparotomy, which involves a larger incision and longer recovery.

A doctor can help a person determine the risks of each type of surgery and provide reasons why they may prefer one over the other. In general, a doctor may recommend a laparoscopy for smaller cysts and a laparotomy for larger cysts or ones that may be cancerous.

Recovery usually takes a few days to several weeks for a person to return to normal activities. Most people recover without complications, but surgery can cause issues, such as an infection at the incision.

People who may have trouble paying for the procedure should try to work with the health network or reach out to nonprofit organizations that may help pay for the procedure or associated with medications, such as pain relievers.