A new study has confirmed a decades-old technique of ‘flushing’ blocked fallopian tubes to improve fertility.
Published in The New England Journal of Medicine, the H2Oil study has confirmed that a technique that “flushes” a woman’s blocked fallopian tubes using liquid to help women conceive, significantly improves fertility, and that a certain type of fluid one that is oil-based rather than water-based shows strong results.
The study involved 1,119 women — younger than 38 and had been trying to conceive for 18 months on average — in 27 medical centres in The Netherlands. Each of the women randomly received either an oil- or water-based substance.
Results showed that of those whose tubes were flushed with the oil-based substance, 40% achieved successful pregnancies within six months, compared to 29% among women receiving the water-based substance.
A hysterosalpingogram (HSG) procedure allows around 5% of infertile couples to be diagnosed with blocked tubes, which means that the egg and sperm can never meet. Before, it needs surgery to unblock the tubes, but now, IVF can be the solution.
Although HSG can check whether tubes are blocked, many women have actually conceived in the first three to six months after undergoing the procedures, which means that the so-called “flushing of the tubes” during the HSG process itself has a beneficial effect on fertility.
Ben Mol, a professor at University of Adelaide, said that the results of the study can help infertile couples. “Our results are an important gain for couples facing the diagnosis of infertility. For those without a clear cause for their infertility, it represents a potential alternative when they would otherwise have had no other course of action than to pursue invasive IVF treatment,” he said.
In 2015, a review of studies exploring fertility success after HSG suggested that flushing the tubes with a contrast substance that can be dissolved in oil can improve fertility better than using a water-soluble one, although further research is needed.
“Further research would need to be conducted not only into the underlying mechanism, but whether the same benefits are seen in women undergoing assessment of their tubes with flushing by saline at ultrasound, or at a surgical inspection of the abdomen (laparoscopy).
“The technique of tubal flushing has been used for 100 years. We believe it is a viable investigation and treatment for infertility before couples seek IVF,” he said.
The results of the study were presented at the 13th World Congress on Endometriosis in Vancouver, Canada, last Thursday.