Have you been diagnosed with blocked fallopian tubes? Are you concerned you may need surgery to unblock them? Blocked fallopian tubes or tubal factor infertility are estimated to be the cause of fertility problems for about 25-30% of infertile women. The fallopian tube can be blocked on one or both sides affecting fertility and health in numerous ways. Most women who have blocked tubes do not even know they are blocked unless they have been treated for pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) in the past. PID is an infection of the pelvic organs as a result of chlamydia or gonorrhea, the two most common sexually transmitted infections (STI). Other conditions, like endometriosis can be the reason for blocked tubes.
Women who have confirmed blocked tubes who contact us are often unsure what steps they need to take to improve their fertility and fallopian tube function. This article discusses surgical approaches for blocked tubes, the pros and cons, and ways to know if a surgical approach is right for you.
Treating Blocked Fallopian Tubes
Each woman experiences blocked fallopian tubes differently. The tubes are very small and delicate, about the size of a spaghetti noodle. This adds a layer of complexity to diagnosing the problem and determining whether surgery (which can cause further damage) is the best option. If a woman is trying to get pregnant and is unsuccessful, she often visits an OB/GYN who asks a series of questions and performs various tests. In almost all cases, the male partner is asked to do a semen analysis because infertility is a couple’s problem in 35 % of cases. Another tests that can be performed such as:
HSG (Hysterosalpingogram) Testing: HSG is the main test performed to determine if the fallopian tubes are blocked and where. It’s important to be aware that HSG testing to diagnose blocked tubes is not perfect. Around 15% of women get a “false positive” HSG . This happens when the dye simply doesn’t make it past the end of the tube usually as a result of tubal spasm or an intrauterine mass such as a fibroid. The dye is injected through the cervix and a real-time x-ray is taken while a radiologist looks for dye spillage out of the tube. An HSG can be therapeutic in unblocking a tube that is blocked with mucus.
If you’re unsure, ask your doctor for an in-depth analysis of your results. He/she will have the most complete information available on whether you may have had a “false positive.”
What about Hydrotubation? Hydrotubation is the trans-cervical flushing of fluid through the fallopian tubes under ultrasound guidance. It’s sometimes used to diagnose blocked fallopian tubes for women who refuse HSG. While more research is needed, early evidence suggests hydrotubation may be a good choice to help restore fertility for women living in areas with few resources who aren’t candidates for laparoscopic surgery or IVF.
Fallopian Tube Surgery Options – What you need to know.
For the most part, surgical approaches to repair blocked fallopian tubes have been replaced with IVF, which produces better pregnancy rates and has more success. Still, there are times when surgery could be an option.
- Transcervical balloon tuboplasty is a minimally invasive technique that can be helpful in opening a minor block occurring at the beginning of the tube by the uterus. In this procedure, a small balloon catheter is inserted into the tube to open it. Pregnancy rates can improve after this procedure, but there may be a risk of developing adhesions.
- Laparoscopic Surgery to unblock and repair the tubes can be helpful if you only have a small number of adhesions causing them to be blocked. Some research suggests that if your blocked tube is otherwise healthy, you may have a 20-40% chance of becoming pregnant after Adhesiolysis surgery (surgery to remove adhesions).
- Microsurgical Tubal Anastomosis is used to restore fertility after tubal ligation. In this surgery, the remaining fallopian tube segments are reconnected to offer a chance for natural fertilization. If the tubes are otherwise healthy and the procedure is uncomplicated, this technique is often successful.
- Salpingectomy is a surgery to remove the affected tube and is the most common approach to address hydrosalpinx (fluid filled tube as a result of infection or other blockages). Because hydrosalpinx decreases pregnancy rates even with IVF, removing the affected tube can provide the best chances for a healthy pregnancy through IVF or natural conception (if the other tube is not affected).
If you have many adhesions, thick scarring or severe damage to the fallopian tubes, surgery is probably not the best approach. There is a bigger risk of creating further scarring and adhesions through surgery, and the chance of success is slim. Moreover, evidence suggests chances of conception are greater with a medical fertility treatment like IVF, or through non-invasive Clear Passages Physical Therapy.
Your Next Steps To Fertility
Always seek advice from your fertility team (RE, fertility herbalist, Ob/GYN) when addressing blocked fallopian tubes. The more knowledge you have, the more power you have to find the right path to restore fertility for your personal situation.
Further, Self-Fertility Massage and Systemic Enzymes are non-invasive, natural techniques to explore to promote fallopian tube function and fertility. For some women, natural therapies to unblock the fallopian tubes produce nothing short of miraculous results, and there is little to lose by trying them if surgery or IVF is not the best option for you.
- Gurevich, R. (2018, Feb.). Blocked Fallopian Tubes: Symptoms and Treatment. Retrieved from: https://www.verywellfamily.com/all-about-blocked-fallopian-tubes-1959927
- Surgical Options for Infertility: Houston Fertility Center. (2018). Retrieved from: https://www.infertilityivfhouston.com/our-services/surgical-options
- Adesiyun A.G., Cole B. and Ogwuche P. (2009, Jan). Hydrotubation in the management of female infertility: outcome in low resource settings. East African Medical Journal; 86(1):31-6. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19530546
- Avoid Surgery For Blocked Fallopian Tubes. (2018). Retrieved from: http://www.clearpassage.com/avoid-surgery/avoid-surgery-for-blocked-fallopian-tubes/