The role of tubal patency tests and tubal surgery in the era
of assisted reproductive techniques
Yalanadu N Suresh MRCOG,1,
* Nitish N Narvekar MD FRCOG
Consultant in Obstetrics & Gynaecology, Great Western Hospital, Marlborough Road, Swindon, Wiltshire SN3 6BB, UK
Consultant in Reproductive Medicine and Minimal Access Surgery, Kings College Hospital, Denmark Hill, London SE5 9RS, UK
*Correspondence: Yalanadu Suresh. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Accepted on 4 September 2013
The pathogenesis of infertility is multi-factorial; investigative and
treatment approaches should therefore be individualised.
There are many tests for tubal patency with their relative
usefulness, but none address all aspects of tubal function.
There is often a clear need for in vitro fertilisation (IVF) in the
management of infertility.
This article reviews the current best available evidence and
provides an expert insight on the role of tubal patency tests in the
era of assisted reproductive techniques (ART).
To understand the relative advantages and limitations of
laparoscopy, hysterosalpingogram, hysterosalpingo contrast
sonography, selective salpingography and tubal catheterisation,
trans-vaginal hydrolaparoscopy, salpingoscopy and fertiloscopy as
tests for tubal patency.
To understand the role of Chlamydia trachomatis serology in tubal
To evaluate the role of tubal patency test in the hierarchy of
investigations for infertility.
To understand the role of tubal surgery in modern management
To understand the importance of medical history taking
Counselling patients about beneﬁts and risks of tests, surgery and
need for assisted conception.
Should primary care trusts fund tubal surgery in patients who are
not otherwise eligible for IVF?
There may be psychosocial issues or anxiety so a multidisciplinary
approach is important.
Keywords: assisted reproductive techniques / HyCoSy / in vitro
fertilisation / laparoscopy / tubal surgery / tubal testing
Please cite this paper as: Suresh YN, Narvekar NN. The role of tubal patency tests and tubal surgery in the era of assisted reproductive techniques. The Obstetrician
The life-time incidence of infertility is widely reported to be
17% (1 in 6 couples);1
however, the incidence and prevalence
has been shown to vary signiﬁcantly depending on the
population studied and methodology used to deﬁne
infertility. Nevertheless, there is a clear year-on-year
increase in the demand for artiﬁcial reproductive
technology (ART) particularly in-vitro fertilisation (IVF).2
IVF was primarily developed as an alternative to surgery
for the treatment of tubal factor infertility. However, its
superior success even in the presence of severe tubal disease
and safe repeatable use on an outpatient basis has led to
it replacing tubal surgery in the modern management
This article reviews the current best available evidence as
well as provide an expert insight on the role of tubal patency
tests and tubal surgery in the era of ART.
Tubal patency tests
The availability of a plethora of tests to assess tubal patency
suggests that there is no perfect test. The various tests are
extensively reviewed in other publications3–5
summarised in Table 1.
Laparoscopy is widely considered to be the gold-standard test
for tubal patency; however there is no evidence base to
support its ‘gold-standard’ attribute due to lack of a proven
alternative comparator. As such, the performances of other
tests are compared to those of laparoscopy.
Laparoscopy enables a direct visual inspection of the entire
external length of the fallopian tube and the pelvis which
improves its diagnostic and prognostic ability. Opportunistic
treatment of mild/minimal endometriosis and peri-adnexal
adhesions confers signiﬁcant therapeutic beneﬁt.6,7
ª 2014 Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists 37
The Obstetrician Gynaecologist
it requires general anaesthesia in most cases and is
associated with a 0.13% risk of bowel, urological or
Hysterosalpingogram (HSG) is cheap and widely available
and due to the longevity of its use, has the largest evidence
base to rule out unilateral or bilateral tubal block. It has a low
sensitivity of 53% and a high speciﬁcity of 87%9
– i.e. a
positive test correctly identiﬁes blocked fallopian tubes in
53% of cases whereas a negative test correctly identiﬁes
patent fallopian tubes in 87% of cases. Therefore, given its
widespread availability, it is a good screening test to rule out
unilateral or bilateral tubal block. Limitations include failed
catheterisation or instrumentation and/or incomplete seal
around the cervix, false positive due to tubal spasm or debris
and reporting errors. The ideal time for the test is menstrual
cycle day 7–12 (i.e. after the end of menstruation but before
ovulation) and depending on the clinical setting, there can be
delays and cancellations due to scheduling problems.
Radiation exposure from this is signiﬁcantly higher than
that of a standard chest X-ray10
and there is a 1–3% risk of
A recent multicentre prospective cohort study evaluating
fecundity rate ratios (FRRs) in 3301 patients who underwent
HSG (n = 2043), laparoscopy (n = 747) or both HSG and
laparoscopy (n = 511), reported an FRR (95% conﬁdence
interval [CI]) of 0.81 (0.59–1.1) for unilateral tubal pathology
and an FRR of 0.28 (0.13–0.59) for bilateral tubal pathology
The FRRs for unilateral and bilateral tubal
pathology at laparoscopy were 0.85 (0.47–1.52) and 0.24
(0.11–0.54) respectively. Fecundity rate (FR) represents the
probability of spontaneous intrauterine pregnancy (IUP) per
time unit elapsed, derived from analysing the cumulative
probability of pregnancy over the study duration. Only
women trying to conceive are included in the calculation, and
women who have conceived using additional treatments are
excluded after the start of their additional treatment. FRR is
Table 1. Tubal patency tests4,50
stated otherwise) Effectiveness Safety
Lap and dye Unknown Unknown Unilateral
HSG Sens. 53%
LBR OSM vs. no
OR 2.98 (1.40–6.37)
LBR OSM vs. WSM
OR 1.49 (1.05–2.11)
exposure~ 2 Gray
HyCoSy Sens. 93.3%
0.61 for B/L
0.70 for R
0.37 for L
Unknown Unknown PID ~12
SSTC Unknown Unknown Unknown Unknown Tubal perforation 2%
THL Unknown Unknown Unilateral
Rectal injury 0.61% ~15
Fertiloscopy Sens. 86%
Unknown Unknown Rectal injury 0.61%
Salpingoscopy Unknown Unknown Unknown Unknown Same as lap and dye ~45
Fallaposcopy Unknown Unknown Classiﬁcation
Tubal perforation 5.1% ~20
CAT Sens. 21–90%
Assay variation Unknown Unknown Unknown N/A
B/L=bilateral; CAT=chlamydia antibody test; ds=disease; DTO=distal tubal obstruction; FRR=fecundity rate ratio; HSG=hysterosalpingogram;
HyCoSy=hysterosalpingo contrast sonography; L=left; LBR=live birth rate; OR=odds ratio; OSM=oil-soluble medium; PID=pelvic inﬂammatory
disease; PTO=proximal tubal obstruction; R=right; SSTC=selective salpingography and tubal catheterisation; THL=transvaginal hydrolaparoscopy;
38 ª 2014 Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists
Tubal tests and tubal surgery in the era of ART
the ratio of fecundity between women with a speciﬁc test
ﬁnding (for example, unilateral or bilateral pathology) and
those without the test ﬁnding. Therefore, the results of this
study, which addressed methodological deﬁciencies of
previous large-scale studies, suggest a 72% reduction in
fecundity for HSG and 74% for laparoscopy when the test
indicated bilateral tubal pathology. The prognostic ability of
unilateral tubal pathology with regard to fecundity for both
tests was unclear as the 95% conﬁdence interval crossed the
line of unity of no effect.
The use of oil-soluble contrast medium has been shown to
confer a therapeutic beneﬁt compared to no intervention
(odds ratio [OR] for live birth 2.98 [1.40–6.37]) and
water-soluble contrast medium (OR for live birth 1.49
Despite this, water-soluble medium is
preferred due to superior image quality and safety
(oil-soluble medium is associated with complications such
as oil embolisation and granulomas).
Hysterosalpingo contrast sonography
Hysterosalpingo contrast sonography (HyCoSy) is a
transvaginal ultrasound technique in which a water-soluble
contrast medium is injected into the uterine cavity using a 5F
or 7F catheter. The test is performed in an outpatient setting
with the woman in a semi-lithotomy position which allows
easier access for cervical catheterisation. HyCoSy allows
simultaneous examination of the endometrial cavity, uterine
morphology (3D) where available and fallopian tubes while
avoiding radiation exposure. Signiﬁcant technical difﬁculty
may be encountered in obese women and those with acute
uterine retroversion and high ovaries.13
Data pooled from multiple studies indicate a high
sensitivity, speciﬁcity, and patient tolerability.14
comparative basis, HyCoSy is more sensitive and speciﬁc
however, one study of 103 women reported
a higher likelihood of uncertain (neither patent nor
occluded) ﬁndings with HyCoSy compared to HSG (8.8%
HyCoSy versus 0.5% HSG).15
Another study reported poor
intra-observer reliability (repeat test by same observer after
3 months) for left-sided patency and pathology16
explanations such as right handedness of the operator and a
true ﬁnding to explain this statistical anomaly.
A variety of contrast media have been used for HyCoSy –
in our experience, the best medium for cavity check is normal
saline (saline infusion sonography or SIS) and that for tubal
check is hysterosalpingo foam sonography (ExEmâ
[De Smit Medical Systems, Bristol]).8
Selective salpingography and tubal catheterisation
Selective salpingography involves the direct injection of
radiopaque dye into the tubal ostium through a catheter
introduced transcervical under ﬂuoroscopic control as a
result of which it signiﬁcantly reduces false positives due to
tubal spasm and debris. Therefore the test is mainly used
second-line to improve the accuracy of HSG or laparoscopy
in the diagnosis of proximal tubal obstruction.17
allows direct measurement of tubal perfusion pressures which
has been shown to have prognostic value.3
Selective salpingography can be combined with tubal
catheterisation to treat proximal tubal obstruction. Although
successful catheterisation rates are high (62–90%), pregnancy
rates are much lower (around 30%).18
This may be due to
re-occlusion or the presence of co-existing inﬂammatory
pathology such as salpingitis isthmica nodosa (SIN) which is
best treated by tubal resection and anastomosis (see later).
The risk of tubal perforation during catheterisation is 2% and
of ectopic pregnancy is 3%. The procedure adds to operator
time and radiation exposure to that from a standard HSG. A
close working relationship between radiology and fertility
teams is necessary for correct interpretation and surgical
planning in order to maximise the value of the test. A lack
of such working relationships in many clinics due to
the challenges inherent to joint working may explain
its limited use despite the widespread availability of
Transvaginal hydrolaparoscopy, salpingoscopy,
Transvaginal hydrolaparoscopy (THL) involves insufﬂation
of the pelvis with 0.4–0.6 litres of a ﬂuid medium through an
insufﬂating needle inserted into the posterior fornix, followed
by the introduction of a small diameter rigid angled
endoscope to visualise the pouch of douglas (POD), pelvic
side-walls, adnexa and tubal patency (the dye injected
transcervically). The test is performed in an outpatient
setting under local anaesthetic and minor operative
procedures such as ovarian drilling, adhesiolysis, diathermy
to endometriosis and salpingostomy can be performed
through the operative channel.19
The single biggest risk is
bowel injury, either at the time of insufﬂation or
introduction of the endoscope. Pooled data from large case
series (n = 4232) report a recto-sigmoid injury rate of 0.61%,
all of which were managed either by primary repair or
conservatively with no long-term sequelae.20
complication rate is much higher than that observed with
laparoscopy and the test is not suitable for women with
signiﬁcant obliteration of POD due to PID, endometriosis
Salpingoscopy is the endoscopic visualisation of the
endosalpinx of the tubal infundibulum and ampulla at
laparoscopy and/or THL, whereas falloposcopy is the
endoscopic visualisation of the whole endosalpinx at
hysteroscopy. Although these techniques provide signiﬁcant
additional information, currently there is no universally
agreed and validated system to classify normal and abnormal
ﬁndings and therefore, there is a lack of prognostic ability.
ª 2014 Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists 39
Suresh and Narvekar
Fertiloscopy is an outpatient technique that combines
hysteroscopy, THL and salpingoscopy.21
multicentre study (n = 92) reported a high degree of
concordance between fertiloscopy and laparoscopy.22
Fertiloscopy was performed ﬁrst, followed by laparoscopy,
by two separate operators chosen by random allocation.
Videotape ﬁndings of the procedures were reviewed by two
other central independent observers to resolve differences.
Only 20% of women had normal ﬁndings whereas the
remainder (80%) had minor abnormalities.
A systematic review and meta-analysis of the available
evidence on the association between items reported during
medical history taking and tubo-peritoneal pathology
reported a strong association for history of complicated
appendicitis (OR 7.2, 95% CI 2.2–22.8), pelvic surgery (OR
3.6, 95% CI 1.4–9.0), PID (OR 3.2, 95% CI 1.6–6.6),
ectopic pregnancy (OR 16.0, 95% CI 12.5–20.4),
endometriosis (OR 5.9, 95% CI 3.2–10.8) and sexually
transmitted disease (OR 11.9, 95% CI 4.3–33.3).23
with such a medical background should therefore be offered
laparoscopy ﬁrst-line because of its therapeutic potential.
Chlamydia antibody test
Chlamydia trachomatis is the single largest cause of acquired
tubal pathology and evidence of both current and past
infection can be easily measured using C. trachomatis
antibody test (CAT). The sensitivity (21–90%) and speciﬁcity
(29–100%) varies depending on the cut-off value used to deﬁne
a positive result.24
A recent meta-analysis evaluating the
accuracy of three different CAT assays, reported a signiﬁcantly
better performance of MIF (micro-immune-ﬂuorescence)
compared to ELISA (enzyme linked immunosorbent assay)
or IF (immune-ﬂuorescence) assays.25
The optimal cut-off value of CAT should be adjusted as
per the individual patient’s need; for example, a value that
delivers a high sensitivity should be chosen when it is more
important to detect tubal pathology with high certainty,
whereas a value delivering high speciﬁcity should be chosen
when it is more important to rule out tubal pathology to
avoid unnecessary invasive testing.
Routine or selective use of tubal patency test?
The prevalence of tubal factor infertility varies from 11 to
30% depending on the setting and population;26
of infertility include male factor (20–30%), anovulation
(20%) and unexplained (25–30%). Therefore, the initial
investigations of an infertile couple should be conﬁned
to assessment of sperm (seminal ﬂuid analysis), pelvic
anatomy (transvaginal ultrasound scan), and ovulation
and ovarian reserve (follicular phase gonadotrophins,
Invasive tubal patency test should be offered after taking
into account the overall treatment needs of the woman or
couple; the most effective treatment of male factor and
long-standing (more than 5 years) unexplained infertility
and moderate to severe endometriosis is IVF. Ovulation
induction (OI) is the treatment of choice for women with
anovulation, whereas, IUI is usually reserved for the
treatment of women not exposed to sperm on a regular
basis; these include partners with azoospermia, and erectile
or ejaculatory dysfunction and single women and same-sex
couples. There is strong evidence to suggest that women who
are otherwise ovulating and exposed to sperm on a regular
basis (unexplained or mild male factor infertility) do not
beneﬁt from clomiphene citrate or IUI.27
Therefore, invasive tubal testing can be avoided in a vast
majority of women, and only offered to those who choose or
need OI, IUI or natural conception. In low-risk
treatment-na€ıve women undergoing OI or IUI, we do not
advocate the routine use of a tubal patency test prior to
initiating treatment. The majority of such women who
conceive, do so within the ﬁrst three attempts and therefore
failures beyond this are offered IVF (or FSH therapy if
ovulatory failure with clomiphene citrate) and only women
keen to proceed with further OI or IUI treatment are offered
a tubal patency test. Our current practice is in keeping with
data from other studies that conﬁrm a lack of therapeutic and
prognostic beneﬁt of routine tubal patency testing prior to
initiating IUI in low-risk women.28,29
While there is much debate about the place of tubal patency
testing in the infertility work-up and the physician’s choice of
test, patient choice has not been adequately researched. A
recent UK community-based questionnaire study reported
women’s attitudes towards four tests of tubal patency;
laparoscopy, HSG, HyCoSy and fertiloscopy.30
A total of 68
women, with an average age of 30 years attending a GP
surgery in London, were included in the survey and the
response rate was 94% (64/68). The majority of women
(34%), who were otherwise na€ıve about these tests and were
only informed by means of an information leaﬂet describing
each test, preferred fertiloscopy as ﬁrst choice due to its
ability to visualise the interior of the fallopian tube and the
avoidance of general anaesthesia and surgical scars.
Destructive tubal surgery
There is clear evidence of harm to implantation from the
presence of hydrosalpinx and therefore surgical treatment of
hydrosalpinx, either by salpingectomy or tubal occlusion is
now considered standard treatment prior to IVF.31
evidence base for this correlates with disease severity and
40 ª 2014 Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists
Tubal tests and tubal surgery in the era of ART
therefore is strongest for ultrasound visible and bilateral
There is a theoretical concern of reduced ovarian
reserve and responsiveness due to interference in ovarian
blood supply following salpingectomy. However,
well-designed observational trials have not shown any
difference in ovarian responsiveness and egg yield between
treated and untreated sides.34–36
Routine 2D transvaginal ultrasound has a sensitivity of
84.6% and a speciﬁcity of 99.7% for the diagnosis of
Therefore, the need to perform tubal
patency test to rule out a hydrosalpinx that is not obvious
on routine ultrasound examination is debatable and should
be reserved for women with recurrent implantation failures
despite the transfer of high-quality embryos. Indeed there is
strong evidence, albeit without any biological plausibility,
of the therapeutic beneﬁt of cavity check by hysteroscopy
in women with at least two IVF implantation failures.38
Therefore the ideal test in women with such a
background is HyCoSy which combines cavity check with
Reconstructive tubal surgery
Tubal pathology is classiﬁed as proximal, distal or bipolar
(proximal and distal). The indications and success of various
tubal surgical interventions are summarised in Table 2.
Proximal tubal disease
Proximal tubal disease accounts for approximately 15% of
cases of tubal factor infertility; the most common cause is
salpingitis isthmica nodosa (SIN), a tubal disease of
inﬂammatory aetiology which is associated with other
infective PID stigmata such as distal tubal disease and
pelvic and peri-hepatic adhesions. The underlying
histopathology reveals endosalpingeal diverticula encased in
myosalpingeal hypertrophy and ﬁbrosis resulting in a ﬁrm
proximal tubular nodule which can be seen on laparo-
scopic examination (Figure 1). As the disease involves both
endosalpingeal and myosalpingeal compartments, it is no
surprise that tubal resection and anastomosis (Figure 1) of
the diseased inﬂammatory area results in highest success
compared to tubal catheterisation or expectant management
irrespective of tubal patency.39
An endometriotic nodule can
mimic SIN – bilateral proximal disease and associated
infective PID stigmata are pathognomonic of SIN.
Other known causes of proximal tubal disease include
tubal debris and intraluminal adhesions, which are amenable
to hysteroscopic or ﬂuoroscopic tubal catheterisation.
Distal tubal disease
Distal tubal disease accounts for approximately 85% of cases
of tubal factor infertility. Hydrosalpinx is an end stage of
distal tubal disease and is best managed by salpingectomy
(Figure 2) followed by IVF.31
The odds of ongoing pregnancy
rate increased two-fold (OR 2.14, 95% CI 1.23–3.73).21
presence of bilateral disease, however, raises an ethical
dilemma as bilateral salpingectomy renders the woman
entirely dependent on IVF for conception. The long-term
fertility and psychological impact of such an approach is
unquantiﬁed and, therefore, management of these women
should be individualised based on age, presence of
co-aetiologies and the local and personal resources available
to fund continued IVF treatments. An interim salpingectomy
i.e. salpingectomy after previous failed IVF treatment, confers
equivalent beneﬁt to primary salpingectomy and the
cumulative birth rate was shown to be similar after a
maximum of three completed IVF treatments.40
Diseased tubes with a retention of 50% normal mucosa
have the best prognosis following reconstructive surgery.
Unfortunately, ultrasound criteria do not correlate with
endosalpingeal health, although 86% of hydrosalpinges that
were visible by ultrasound were found to have severe mucosal
Therefore suitability for reconstructive surgery is
best assessed at laparoscopy with recourse to salpingoscopy
Table 2. Tubal surgery
Term pregnancy rate
Ectopic pregnancy rate
Salpingectomy Hydrosalpinx prior to IVF
(limited data for natural conception)
25% LBR (IVF) 1–2%
Resection anastomosis SIN 44% (11–57%) 7% (0–12%)
Salpingo-ovariolysis Peri-adnexal adhesions 50% (17–64%) 5% (0–16%)
Fimbrioplasty Fimbrial phimosis 50% (15–60%) 7% (2–23%)
Salpingostomy Hydrosalpinx with 50% normal
mucosa or bilateral or well
30% (0–42%) 9% (7–24%)
Reversal of sterilisation Tubal sterilisation 52% (33–86%) 5% (0–14%)
Data derived from review Posaci et al 1999.41
LBR=live birth rate; IVF=in vitro fertilisation; SIN=salpingitis isthmica nodosa.
ª 2014 Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists 41
Suresh and Narvekar
The exact surgical technique used and the subsequent
prognosis depends on the extent and severity of disease; for
example greatest success is for salpingo-ovariolysis (division
of isolated peri-adnexal adhesions) followed by ﬁmbrioplasty
whereas salpingostomy (Figure 2) which is used for treatment
of hydrosalpinx is least successful.41
The main principle of
distal tubal surgery is to maximise functional length of the
fallopian tube particularly the ampulla42
by achieving patency
as distally and close to the ovary as possible and to suture the
margins open where appropriate with the smallest possible
diameter non-absorbable suture.43
The authors prefer 4–0
(Ethicon Inc., Menlo Park, CA, USA) (Figure 2) as
it can be used with existing standard laparoscopic needle
holders, thus minimising cost of additional equipment.
Reversal of tubal sterilisation
Surgical reversal of tubal sterilisation is just as successful as
IVF; however, it is not funded on the NHS (nor is IVF for this
patient group). Good prognostic factors include female age
35 years and residual tubal length of more than 4 cm.39
Laparotomy versus laparoscopy
The principles of microsurgery include atraumatic surgical
technique, magniﬁcation, complete excision of disease,
precise haemostasis, layered tissue re-anastomosis with
non-absorbable material and hydration of exposed tissue
surfaces. There are no comparative studies on the
performance of laparotomy versus laparoscopic tubal
surgery, but there is no underlying reason why
microsurgical principles cannot be applied to the
laparoscopic approach. The use of robotic surgery with its
multiple suturing angles negates the potential mechanical
difﬁculty in achieving optimal tissue anastomosis with
Should PCTs fund reconstructive tubal surgery when
the patient is not eligible for IVF?
There is wide variation in the state funding for IVF within the
UK, with a majority (90%) of Primary Care Trusts surveyed
in 2005 funding one cycle only and none funding the full
three cycles recommended by the National Institute for
Figure 1. (a) Left salpingitis ishtmica nodosa (SIN) with proximal tubal obstruction; (b) right SIN but patent tube (note methylene dye visible on
tubal serosa due to endosalpingeal diverticulae); (c) excision of left SIN; (d) anastomosis with 4-0 ProleneTM
(Ethicon Inc., Menlo Park, CA, USA); (e)
ﬁrst layer of sutures; (f) second layer of sutures.
42 ª 2014 Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists
Tubal tests and tubal surgery in the era of ART
Health and Care Excellence (NICE).44,45
While there have
been some improvements in equity since the last survey46,47
full equitable application of the NICE guideline remains a
Local allocation of funds for fertility treatment is based on
the founding principles of the NHS i.e. cost-effectiveness (or
value for money) and rationing based on treating those at
most need. Therefore, a patient not eligible for IVF should
not be offered tubal surgery which is equally expensive but far
less effective. If an individual funding request (IFR) is
deemed appropriate, then it should be for IVF unless
there are strong personal or medical grounds to support
Historically, funded provision of IVF was agreed on the
premise that local units ‘switch over’ to IVF rather than
continue to offer tubal surgery. This model is ﬂawed at
several levels including patient autonomy, safety and
effectiveness; for example, a population study published in
1991 where patients were offered a progressive choice of tubal
surgery followed by IVF, reported a much higher cumulative
success (up to 80%) for the progressive approach48,49
could be achieved by either treatment alone. As surgical
techniques have altered very little and IVF technology and
success improved signiﬁcantly since, there is a need to review
various models of service delivery and evaluate their efﬁcacy
and cost-effectiveness. The modern cost of tubal surgery that
can safely be done by a 90-minute day-surgery laparoscopy
operation using diathermy scissors, needle holder and
non-absorbable sutures is far less expensive than cost
calculated based on traditional surgery, which involves
inpatient admission for laparotomy microsurgery. The
changing landscape of the NHS with commissioning
responsibility devolved to local Clinical Commissioning
Groups (CCGs) presents a real opportunity to engage
commissioners on the role and tariffs for tubal surgery
and offer a progressive choice to the patient in this era of
Figure 2. (a) Left hydrosalpinx; (b) left salpingectomy; (c) right hydrosalpinx; (d) right terminal salpingostomy (note healthy mucosa and
marsupilsation of edges with 4-0 Prolene); and patient 2; (e) left cuff salpingostomy (note loss of mucosa and therefore poor prognosis); (f) right
ª 2014 Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists 43
Suresh and Narvekar
ART – to start with, this is best done in units where the local
prevalence of tubal factor infertility is high.
In summary, a policy of universal invasive tubal patency testing
is to be discouraged; instead the investigation and management
of tubal factor infertility should be individualised to the needs
of patients and populations. The option of tubal surgery should
be explored in selected cases and new models of care provision
should be incorporated into the practice where appropriate.
Figure 3 presents a pragmatic, evidence-based approach to the
management of tubal infertility.
Disclosure of interests
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Population study of causes, treatment, and outcome of infertility. Br Med J
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2 Human Fertilisation Embryology Authority. Fertility Treatment in 2011:
Trends and Figures. London: HFEA; 2013.
3 Papaioannou S, Afnan M, Sharif K. The role of selective salpingography and
tubal catheterization in the management of the infertile couple. Curr Opin
Obstet Gynecol 2004;16:325–9.
4 Papaioannou S, Bourdrez P, Varma R, Afnan M, Mol BW, Coomarasamy
A. Tubal evaluation in the investigation of subfertility: a structured
comparison of tests. BJOG 2004;111:1313–21.
Figure 3. An evidence-based approach to management of infertility.31,32,48,49
AFC = antral follicle count; AMH = anti-mullerian hormone; CC = clomiphene citrate; DI = donor insemination; ds = disease; E2 = oestradiol; FSH =
follicule stimulating syndrome; GNRH = gonadotrophin releasing hormone; HIV = human immunodeﬁciency virus; IM = intramural; IVF = in-vitro
fertilisation; LH = luteinising hormone; NC = natural conception; PCOS = polycystic ovary syndrome; P4 = progesterone; SIN = salpingitis isthimica
nodosa; SM = submucous.
44 ª 2014 Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists
Tubal tests and tubal surgery in the era of ART
5 Saunders RD, Shwayder JM, Nakajima ST. Current methods of tubal patency
assessment. Fertil Steril 2011;95:2171–9.
6 Marcoux S, Maheux R, Berube S. Laparoscopic surgery in infertile women
with minimal or mild endometriosis. Canadian Collaborative Group on
Endometriosis. N Engl J Med 1997;337:217–22.
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ª 2014 Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists 45
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