Tubal cannulation is a procedure to help clear a blockage in the fallopian tubes, a common cause of female infertility. As many as 1 in 4 women who have difficulty getting pregnant have a blockage in the fallopian tubes.
Tubal cannulation is less invasive than fallopian tube surgery and it may help your doctor better understand why the blockage occurred.
The doctor inserts a tube called a catheter that is guided over a wire. Ultrasound or real-time moving X-rays of the fallopian tubes may be used to guide your doctor to the correct area. The blocked area in the fallopian tube is opened up using a balloon on the catheter or with the wire.
Tubal cannulation may be done immediately after a procedure called hysterosalpingography or hysterosalpingogram. During this procedure, dye is first flushed through the catheter to identify and locate a fallopian tube blockage.
Tubal cannulation may be done with or without anesthesia. You may be given a mild sedative to calm your nerves and help you relax.
It is usually an outpatient procedure. That means a hospital stay is not needed and you will likely go home the same day.
The procedure can help your doctor more accurately diagnose and treat a fallopian tube blockage. It may help you avoid more expensive and invasive surgical procedures.
Is Tubal Cannulation Right for Me?
Tubal cannulation should only be done if an imaging test clearly shows a blockage in one or both fallopian tubes. The cannulation procedure is most successful when the blockage occurs in the part of the tube closest to the womb (uterus), called a proximal tubal obstruction. The procedure is recommended for this type of obstruction, but it also may be used for mid-tubal blockage.
If the imaging test shows a blockage, some doctors recommend that women consider tubal cannulation before having more expensive fertility procedures, such as in vitro fertilization (IVF).
Who Should Not Have Tubal Cannulation?
Tubal cannulation may not be recommended if you have:
- Extensive scarring in the fallopian tubes
- Genital tuberculosis and certain other infections
- Previous fallopian tube surgery
- Severe blockage that is difficult for a catheter to pass through
- Severe damage to the fallopian tubes
- Distal blockage (in an area of the fallopian tube that is the farthest from the uterus)
Tubal cannulation may fail or may not work as well if you have:
- A blockage in a part of the fallopian tube far away from the uterus
- Certain blockages in the narrowest part of the fallopian tube, called the isthmus
- Inflammatory condition of the fallopian tubes
- Severe tubal disease or scarring
Risks of Tubal Cannulation
Tubal cannulation should only be done by a doctor who is well-trained in the procedure. Risks include:
- Failure to restore fallopian tube function
- Tearing (perforation) of the fallopian tube wall
- Peritonitis, a life-threatening infection of the tissue covering your abdominal organs
What to Expect After Tubal Cannulation
Tubal cannulation helps restore fertility in many, but not all, women. It is important to remember that successfully reopening the fallopian tubes does not always help a woman become pregnant. Pregnancy rates depend on the:
- Specific procedure performed
- Location of the blockage
- Cause of the blockage
Women with severe fallopian tube disease who are not good candidates for tubal cannulation may wish to consider IVF and embryo transfer.