Woman With Secondary Infertility & Possible Blocked Tube: Misdiagnosed? Surgery? What To Do?

Woman With Secondary Infertility & Possible Blocked Tube: Misdiagnosed? Surgery? What To Do?

Question:

I had an HSG (hysterosalpingogram) in November.The dye flowed freely through my left tube, which appeared normal and healthy.  However, the dye would not enter my right tube until after the radiologist had me get on my right and then left side. The dye then went into the tube and appeared to flow freely, but then it stopped abruptly mid way in the tube.The visible part of the tube appeared normal and healthy.  My RE told me that it is extremely rare for a woman to have a blocked tube in the middle of the tube unless she’s had her tubes tied and that it was possible I was just born with half a tube.

I recently had a laparoscopy in June to get more info about the cause of my infertility and to attempt to repair the right tube. The dye again flowed freely in the left tube. My doctor inspected the right tube, and found that it appeared to be completely normal and healthy in every respect. However, again, the dye entered the right tube and stopped mid way. 

After the surgery, my doctor told me that I had no endometriosis or adhesions of any kind. She also told me that I had no evidence of any tubal disease or previous infection in my pelvic cavity.  The only abnormalities that were found were a large paratubal cyst that had wrapped around my good left tube (the cyst was successfully removed), and a small polyp during the hysteroscopy (also removed).  I also have never had any other surgeries or ectopic pregnancies. 

My RE told me she had no idea what was blocking the tube, but not to worry about it because research shows that having one healthy tube does not really decrease your chances that much for Clomid/IUI or timed intercourse.  Still, it’s very frustrating to me because I thought that laparoscopy was 100% method for diagnosing the cause of a blocked tube, but I have no more info about the cause of blocked tube than when I started.

I am 38 and my FSH and AMH values are excellent, and my hubby passed his sperm analysis. I have a 2 year old that was conceived after 8 months and we have been trying for #2 for 1.5 years.  Although I understand that having just one tube should not affect my chances that much, I am still concerned because at this point, it is our only known issue.    

My questions are:  1. What could have caused the blockage in my tube?  2. Is it possible that the tube is not actually blocked but is not flowing for some other reason (I’ve heard about false diagnoses of blocked tubes due to preferential flow or not enough dye being used)?  3.  Is there any other way to find out what is blocking my tube?  4.  Is it worth it to pursue surgery to repair the tube like I’ve seen for women who undergo tubal reversal surgery?  
Thank you! C. from Atlanta

Answer:

Hello C. from the U.S. (Atlanta),

To answer your questions in order:

1.  The most common cause of a mid-tubal blockage, that is not from prior surgery, is an internal tubal infection.  Many of the bacteria that cause this type of scarring can do so without any type of symptom.  A laparoscopy would not be able to find this type of injury and, other than the HSG, there is no way to examine the inside of the tubes.

2.  It is possible that there was tubal “spasm” causing the tube to appear blocked, but I doubt it because the Radiologist was able to get the dye to flow down part of the tube.  However, if you think that it my not be an accurate test, then I would recommend that you have another one, but have your doctor specifically request that they pay most attention to the right tube i.e. do the test so that the dye preferably goes down the right side.  Remember, fluid will always go down the side of least resistance.

3.  There is no other testing that can be done to examine the tube.  Scope technology is still not small enough.

4.  NO.  Such surgery can cause pelvic scar tissue and impair your fertility more.

First, I think you need to consider ALL the factors involved in your fertility potential.  Yes, it is possible to get pregnant naturally (intercourse or IUI) with one normal tube, but there is no way to prevent the egg from going into the tube that is blocked, so your chances are actually decreased. 

Second, you are 38 years old which means that your natural chances of pregnancy are already reduced significantly down to 3-5% per month (15% per year), which is further reduced if you add the tubal problem. Even with IUI your max chance of pregnancy based on your age is only about 7-10% per month not considering the tubal issue. The fact that you have been pregnant before is a positive factor and increases your success with assisted reproduction. If you want that second child right away and if you were my patient, I would strongly urge you to consider IVF. 

Third, you have to decide which of two assumptions are correct: the tube was blocked from a prior bacteria, which probably went to the opposite tube as well but did not cause blockage, but did cause damage vs the blocked tube was the only injury and the opposite tube is therefore normal.  If the open tube is injured, which cannot be proven but is possible, it may not be functioning normally despite being open.  Keep in mind that fluid can pass through even the smallest opening.  In that case, you will not be able to get pregnant naturally and so IVF would be the treatment of choice.  Because of your age, I would make the assumption that the tube is damaged (mainly because you have not been able to get pregnant naturally when you were able to previously) and therefore recommend IVF.  It is the most successful and expedient treatment option for you. 

If your doctor wants to waste time and try something less like ovulation induction or IUI, that is fine as you understand that the risk you are taking is losing the opportunity to get pregnant with your own eggs and more time passes. I hope this second opinion is useful to you.

Good Luck,
Edward J. Ramirez, M.D.
Executive Medical Director
The Fertility And Gynecology Center
Monterey Bay IVF
Monterey, California, U.S.A.