Fallopian tubes are slender tubes that extend from the ovaries of a woman to her uterus, and through which eggs pass. Blocked fallopian tubes will prevent this process from occuring and result in infertility. There are two tests that are most commonly used to determine if a woman's fallopian tubes have become blocked.
Up to 1/4 of infertility cases are the result of blocked fallopian tubes. Tubal blockage, along with tubal scarring, can be brought about by such factors as infections of the pelvic region, scar tissue formed after a pelvic surgical procedure, or a condition known as pelvic endometriosis. This is a disease that sees some of the tissue that lines the uterus spreading to the ovaries or to other parts of a woman's reproductive system. Statistics show that as many as 40 percent of infertile women have this problem.
The hysterosalpingogram is normally the first test that will be employed to discover if the fallopian tubes are blocked. It is performed in hospitals using X-rays and a contrast dye. The dye will be injected through a woman's cervix during a hysterosalpingogram and into her uterine cavity; all the while, she is being monitored via a series of X-rays. Open fallopian tubes will allow this dye to pass through to the abdominal cavity, which the X-rays will allow the technician to see.
Even if the hysterosalpingogram shows that the fallopian tubes are open, it does not necessarily mean they are still normal and functioning correctly. The lining inside fallopian tubes can be badly damaged but still allow the contrast dye to make it through. If they are severely scarred, they may not be working properly, and could be unable to transport an egg into the uterus. Scarred fallopian tubes can cause what is called a tubal pregnancy, in which the fertilized egg becomes lodged in the tube and starts to develop--a potentially dangerous situation.
The other common test to discover injuries and blockages in the fallopian tubes is the laparoscopy. A very small incision will be made in the woman's belly button, and a slender, telescopic tube with a camera on the end will be inserted into her. The camera is able to show doctors what type of damage is present in the uterus and fallopian tubes that could be blocking them. The doctors will be on the lookout for such types of defects as scar tissue, tumors, abnormalities and the effects of endometriosis,
If a woman does have a blocked fallopian tube, a hysterosalpinogram can become a very painful procedure. Also, more and more doctors are performing laparoscopies in their offices to cut costs. While the procedure will be less expensive this way, if any problems occur or tubal damage is discovered, a second one will probably have to be done in a hospital setting anyway.