Mayo study links ovary removals with increased risk of kidney failure

A new study by the Mayo Clinic shows a correlation in women who have their ovaries removed and an increased risk of kidney failure.

That risk can go up more than 7 percent for some women, according to the study.

Keeping in mind that hysterectomies are the most common medical procedures other than C-sections and, of that group, 50 percent have their ovaries removed, this impacts a lot of women.

The study looked specifically at more than 1,600 premenopausal women living in and around Rochester over the span of 14 years.

“It’s a large increase in risk,” said Dr. Andrea Kattah, a Mayo Clinic Nephrologist.

It is said to be the first study that has shown an important link between estrogen deprivation in younger women and kidney damage. Kattah helped lead recent research, which is somewhat controversial within the medical community.

It begs the question: Should ovaries be removed from premenopausal women if there is not a genetic risk, cancer risk, cyst or other worthwhile reason to do so?

“The practice had been for a long time at the time of hysterectomy to remove the ovaries to decrease the risk of developing ovarian cancer in the long term,” Kattah said. “We don’t have great screening for ovarian cancer.”

While other studies have already shown removing ovaries at too young of an age can increase a wide variety of chronic diseases and mortality, this study adds chronic kidney failure to that list.

Finding the overall kidney failure risk in women under 50 who had not had their ovaries taken out is 13 percent. That number jumps to 20 percent for those with them removed. 

Still, the exact correlation between ovaries producing estrogen and kidney strength remains unknown.

“I think there are at least two things,” Kattah began. “One, animals studies have suggested estrogen levels are good for the kidney, can decrease scaring. It can decrease protein in the urine. The other piece of it when we take the ovaries out we are kinda accelerating the aging process.”

This accumulation of evidence leads Kattah to believe with additional confidence that ovaries are even more important to women's health than previously thought.

“Maybe they are doing something beneficial to women even past their child bearing years,” she said.

As with all medical care, Kattah points out nothing is benign.

Patients and their doctors must weigh the risks and benefits before ovaries are removed.