Tubal cannulation is a procedure to help clear a blockage in the fallopian tubes. The procedure is less invasive than fallopian tube surgery.
Fallopian tube blockage is 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 can help open the fallopian tubes. It may also help your doctor better understand why the blockage occurred.
Sometimes, the procedure is used to create scarring in the fallopian tubes in order to prevent pregnancy in women who do not wish to have children. This is usually a permanent type of birth control.
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.
Tubal cannulation may be done immediately after a procedure called selective salpingography. 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). This type of blockage is called a proximal tubal obstruction.
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 (obliterative fibrosis).
- 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.
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 (distal tubal obstruction).
- Certain blockages in the narrowest part of the fallopian tube, called the isthmus.
- Inflammatory condition of the fallopian tubes (salpingitis isthmica nodosa).
- 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.