Hydrosalpinx is a condition where a woman's Fallopian tube has become swollen and filled with fluid. The Fallopian tube is where an egg becomes fertilised by sperm. The fertilised egg would then travel to the uterus where it would implant and develop into a baby. With hydrosalpinx, however, the fluid-filled Fallopian tube blocks the egg and fertilisation does not occur. The condition usually affects both Fallopian tubes.
Hydrosalpinx can sometimes be caused by the use of IUDs. An IUD is an intrauterine device used to prevent pregnancy. Previous abdominal surgery and endometriosis, a condition where uterine tissues grow outside of the uterus, are associated with the development of hydrosalpinx. Sexually transmitted diseases may also cause hydrosalpinx. Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID) is the major contributing factor in the formation of hydrosalpinx.
Hydrosalpinx can cause constant or recurring pain in the abdomen. A vaginal discharge may occur. For some women, hydrosalpinx is asymptomatic, meaning they do not have any symptoms. As hydrosalpinx causes infertility, it is sometimes discovered only when a woman seeks treatment for infertility issues.
If hydrosalpinx has completely blocked both Fallopian tubes, a woman will not be able to conceive. Sometimes the Fallopian tubes have become so damaged by hydrosalpinx, that even with surgery to open the Fallopian tubes, the egg still cannot pass through.
Three ways exist to diagnose hydrosalpinx. The X-ray procedure involves having a special liquid injected into the uterus. An x-ray is then taken that can detect the liquid's position and progress through the Fallopian tubes. However, the American Society for Reproductive Medicine points out that this test has a 15 per cent false-positive rate which can lead to an incorrect diagnosis. A surgical procedure to detect hydrosalpinx is much more accurate, but it is also invasive. The procedure involves passing a laparoscope through a surgical incision in the abdomen. The surgeon can then visually inspect the Fallopian tubes. An ultrasound is useful for a preliminary diagnosis.
Surgery can be performed to reopen the Fallopian tubes. However, the tubes will often close again. If hydrosalpinx is causing chronic abdominal pain, and fertility is not an issue, surgery to remove the Fallopian tubes is recommended.
According to Dr. John David Gordon, M.D., Clinical Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at The George Washington University, in-vitro fertilisation is not as successful for women with hydrosalpinx. The Fallopian tubes may need to be removed before in-vitro fertilisation can begin.