Adnexal torsion is twisting of the ovary and sometimes the fallopian tube, cutting off the blood supply of these organs.
An ovary and sometimes the fallopian tube twist on the ligament-like tissues that support them. Twisting of an ovary (adnexal torsion) is uncommon but is more likely to occur in women of reproductive age. It usually occurs when there is a problem with an ovary. The following conditions make it more likely to occur:
Noncancerous tumors are more likely to cause twisting than cancerous ones.
Rarely, a normal ovary twists. Children are more likely to have this type of torsion.
Adnexal torsion usually occurs on only one side. Usually, only the ovary is involved, but occasionally, the fallopian tube also twists. Sometimes the blood supply to the ovary is cut off long enough to cause tissue in the ovary to die. Adnexal torsion can cause peritonitis—infection of the spaces in the abdomen (abdominal cavity) and the tissues lining it.
When an ovary twists, women have sudden, severe pain in the pelvic area. The pain is sometimes accompanied by nausea and vomiting. Before the sudden pain, women may have intermittent, crampy pain for days or occasionally even for weeks. This pain may occur because the ovary repeatedly twists, then untwists. The abdomen may feel tender.
Doctors usually suspect the disorder based on symptoms and results of a physical examination.
Ultrasonography using an ultrasound device inserted into the vagina (transvaginal ultrasonography) is done to confirm the diagnosis. This procedure can also usually determine whether blood flow to the ovary has been cut off.
If ultrasonography supports the diagnosis, women are treated immediately. One of the following procedures is used to try to untwist and thus save the ovary:
If an ovarian cyst is present and the ovary can be saved, the cyst is removed (called cystectomy).
If the blood supply was cut off and tissue died, removal of the fallopian tubes and ovaries (salpingo-oophorectomy) is necessary.
If an ovarian tumor is present, the entire ovary is removed (called oophorectomy).
Last full review/revision January 2015 by S. Gene McNeeley, MD