Sometimes, our insides literally tie themselves in knots. An uncommon but serious condition called ovarian torsion (also known as adnexal torsion) occurs when the ovary, and sometimes the fallopian tube, twist on the tissues that support them. This cuts off the blood supply to the ovary, which if not treated promptly, can cause tissue in the organ to die.
The ovaries, which are approximately the size and shape of an almond, are located in a woman’s uterus, one on each side. The ovaries have two main functions: producing hormones (including estrogen and progesterone) and releasing an egg each month for fertilization.
Ovarian torsion usually occurs on just one side and can cause sudden, intense pain and vomiting. It can also cause an infection (peritonitis) in the abdominal cavity. The majority of ovarian torsion cases affect women of reproductive age, but girls can have the condition as well.
Although ovarian torsion is not common, it is a medical emergency. Surgery will be necessary to untwist or remove the ovary. If the blood supply is cut off long enough, the ovary may no longer be able to do its normal work, which can impact fertility and cause other problems. But, the good news is that if treated promptly, women have a good chance of making a full recovery, says Linda Fan, MD, director of Gynecologic Specialties at Yale Medicine.
“At Yale, we have staff highly trained to accurately diagnose this condition, and we work closely with radiologists, who use state-of-the-art ultrasound technology,” Dr. Fan says. “And once we do make a diagnosis, we have the expertise to perform minimally invasive surgery.”