The surgical management of advanced epithelial ovarian cancer involves cytoreduction, or removal of grossly-evident tumor. Residual disease after surgical cytoreduction of ovarian cancer has been shown to be strongly associated with survival. The goal of surgery is "optimal" surgical cytoreduction, which is generally defined as residual disease of 1 cm or less. However, the designation of "optimal" surgical cytoreduction has evolved to include maximal surgical effort and no gross residual disease. In order to achieve this, more aggressive surgical procedures such as rectosigmoidectomy, diaphragm peritonectomy, partial liver resection, and video-assisted thoracic surgery are reported and increasingly utilized in the surgical management of advanced ovarian cancer. The role of maximal surgical effort also extends to the recurrent setting where the goal of surgery should be complete cytoreduction. Patient selection is important in identifying appropriate candidates for surgical cytoreduction in the recurrent setting. The purpose of this article is to review the role of maximum surgical effort in primary and recurrent ovarian cancer.