Tubal Patency

Last Updated: April 10, 2019

Definition - What does Tubal Patency mean?

Tubal patency refers to the openness and lack of blockage in the fallopian tubes. If the fallopian tubes are patent (open), an ovulated egg can be fertilized within one of the tubes and then travel to the uterus for implantation. If the tubes are blocked, the sperm and egg cannot meet, and conception will not be possible. Blocks or occlusions in the fallopian tubes are a significant cause of female factor infertility.

FertilitySmarts explains Tubal Patency

A woman's fallopian tubes may become blocked due to a previous pelvic infection, previous surgery, previous ectopic pregnancy, sexually transmitted infection, or endometriosis. The most common cause of fallopian tube obstruction is pelvic inflammatory disease (PID).

A tube may be partially or fully blocked. Fully blocked tubes do not allow the sperm and the egg to meet, making fertilization impossible. With partially blocked tubes, fertilization may still occur, but there is an increased risk of an ectopic pregnancy.

Tubal patency cannot be assessed on a regular ultrasound. Instead, a hysterosalpingogram (HSG) will be performed. During this test, a plastic tube is interested through the cervix into the uterus. A contrast dye is then injected into the uterus while a transvaginal ultrasound (TVUS) is performed. This allows the technician to see the fluid being injected and assess whether or not it is freely passing through the fallopian tubes. If there is a blockage in any part of one of the fallopian tubes, the dye will struggle to flow around it. This will be seen on the ultrasound and allows the technician to identify the location of the obstruction.

Treatment for a blocked tube depends on the location of the obstruction. If only one tube is blocked, fertility medications could be used to increase the chances of ovulation on the side of the patent tube. Alternatively, laparoscopic surgery may be indicated to remove the blockages. Women with tubal obstruction who wish to become pregnant and do not want to undergo surgery may consider in vitro fertilization (IVF).

Share this: