Transvaginal sonographic tubal patency testing using air and saline solution as contrast media in a routine infertility clinic setting



Tubal patency testing by transvaginal sonography has been implemented in our infertility clinic since 1991. We report our experience with this technique during the last year of routine outpatient activity. A total of 154 infertile patients, including three patients on two occasions, underwent tubal patency testing by transvaginal sonography; 36 also underwent laparoscopy or hysterosalpingography, with a further three undergoing both. A detailed account of the method used to visualize the passage of air and saline through the salpinx is described. The ‘gold standard’ for tubal patency was laparoscopy. In any cases that were doubtful or if there was tubal occlusion, laparoscopy was advised.

The diagnoses by transvaginal sonography in the 154 patients consisted of: 106 with bilateral tubal patency (68.8%), 34 with unilateral tubal occlusions (22.1%), and 13 with bilateral occlusion (8.4%); one case was undiagnosed. Tubal disease was present in 2.5 out of the 36 (69.4%) patients undergoing laparoscopy or hysterosalpingography (69.4 %). The sensitivity, specificity, accuracy, positive and negative predictive values were respectively 80, 85, 82.7, 85 and 80% for the 29 patients undergoing transvaginal sonography and laparoscopy. When the number of tubes examined was considered, these values were respectively 85, 91.6, 89.3, 85 and 91.6%. No discordance was observed in the ten patients undergoing hysterosalpingography.

Demonstration of the tubal course relies on a positive contrast medium filling the tubal lumen. Air and saline were successful for this purpose. In our study, the results of tubal patency testing by transvaginal sonography were very similar to those of hysterosalpingography, but differed in about 10% of the cases from those of laparoscopy. The most difficult problem to rule out was distal tubal occlusion without hydrosalpinx. Tubal patency testing by transvaginal sonography can be used safely as a first-step examination of tubal patency. Easy tubal passage can allow medical treatment, while a doubtful or frankly occluded salpinx should be investigated by laparoscopy. Copyright © 1996 International Society of Ultrasound in Obstetrics and Gynecology