Scientists in San Diego are pioneering a new scheme which uses a new ultrasound technique to assess fallopian tubes. It involves a mixture of saline and air bubbles, thereby reducing the pain usually felt through a traditional x-ray hysterosalpingogram (HSG), which uses dye and is the most common procedure to determine whether a blockage exists.
The physician delivers the mixture via a catheter into the uterus, with the bubbles showing up clearly on ultrasound.
Sanjay Agarwal, Managing Director of Fertility Services in the Department of Reproductive Medicine at UC San Diego Health System, said: “The traditional x-ray approach involves higher pressure and usually causes significant cramping as the dye is administered. The anticipated pain prevents some women from even attempting the test. Others cannot do the test because they are allergic to the dye.
“Assessing the tubes for a blockage is a key component of the diagnostic process in fertile couples, and not doing so because of pain or allergy is a real concern. The new approach is not only much more comfortable for patients, but it also uses saline, so the issue of an allergy does not arise. We are also able to assess the cavity of the uterus at the same time – all without x-rays.”
The ultrasound is performed in the clinic and at present, ideal candidates include those with a prior pregnancy and those at low risk for tubal disease.
“Like the traditional x-ray HSG, the new test should be carried out after the period has
ended but before ovulation,” Agarwal continues. “The fact that the patient can schedule this ultrasound-based test in the clinic and not in radiology prevents a delay in care and allows the patient’s physician to be more involved in the process.”
Reasons for blocked fallopian tubes often include an infection, endometriosis and previous surgeries. Plans to take the procedure outside of the US are already underway.