Fallopian Tube Recanalization
Fallopian tube blockage (tubal factor infertility) is one of the most common causes of female infertility. The fallopian tubes are very fine tube-like structures that connect the ovaries to the uterus. The eggs from the ovary normally travel through the fallopian tubes, where they can be met and fertilized by sperm. Sometimes the tubes can become blocked or narrowed, preventing pregnancy. This can happen in one or both fallopian tubes.
How is fallopian tube recanalization performed?
We can diagnose and treat blocked fallopian tubes with a nonsurgical procedure known as selective salpingography. Similar to a pelvic exam at your OBGYN you lay on your back and a speculum is placed into the vagina. Then a small catheter is inserted through the cervix and a contrast agent, or dye, is injected into the uterus so an X-ray image of the uterine cavity can be obtained. When a fallopian tube blockage is identified, another smaller catheter and wire is threaded into the fallopian tube to open the blockage. You will be given moderate sedation through an IV to make you comfortable for the procedure.
What Causes Tubal Blockage?
The most common cause of tubal factor infertility is pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). PID is a general term used to describe inflammation of the uterus, fallopian tubes and sometimes the ovaries. It is generally caused by repeated sexually transmitted infections (STIs) such as chlamydia or gonorrhea (although this is not always the case). If left untreated, scar tissue can build up, leading to the blockage of one or both fallopian tubes and infertility. If only one tube is blocked, you may still be able to conceive naturally depending on the health of the ovary on that side.
Other causes of tubal factor infertility include endometriosis, previous ectopic pregnancy, previous abdominal surgery, history of infection caused by miscarriage or abortion, and previous or current infection with gonorrhea or chlamydia. Although tuberculosis is relatively rare in the Western world, it can also cause infection in the fallopian tubes, as can a ruptured appendix. All of these can cause scar tissue, mucus and debris to build up in the fallopian tubes, which can lead to blockage.
What is the success rate?
If the blockage is due to debris within the tube, there is a high chance of success. If the tube however is scarred down from prior infection or inflammation, there is a lower success rate of opening the blockage. A clogged pipe is fixed much simpler than a broken pipe.
The above information is not all inclusive of the risks, alternatives and benefits. It is not meant to be a substitute for informed discussion between you and your doctor, but can act as a starting point for such a discussion. There are complications possible with any medical procedure. Overall, minimally invasive procedures have a lower complication rate than open surgeries.