Interventional radiology treatments for infertility

Apr 21, 2015

This week marks National Infertility Awareness Week. Interventional radiology procedures can treat common causes of male and female infertility. These minimally-invasive procedures do not require surgery or general anesthesia.

"An interventional radiologist can evaluate the patient and direct care for the best possible outcome," said Dr. Daniel Thompson, an interventional radiologist at Suburban Imaging.

Female infertility
"The most common cause of female infertility is a blockage of the fallopian tube through which eggs pass from the ovary to the uterus. Occasionally, these tubes become plugged or narrowed, preventing successful pregnancy," states the Society of Interventional Radiology

Interventional radiologists use minimally-invasive procedures to open blockages throughout the body, like angioplasty for blocked vessels in the heart. Imaging tests like ultrasound or MRI are used to find blockages. If a blockage is found in the fallopian tube(s), it can be treated with a procedure similar to angioplasty called Fallopian Tube Recanalization or Selective Salpingography.

"Fallopian tube recanalization is a good procedure for treatment of infertility that is due to blockages in the tubes," said Dr. Anne Reddy, interventional radiologist at Suburban Imaging. "Recanalization is the technical term for opening blockages. These blockages can be due to debris or mucus, perhaps related to prior surgery or infection," she said.

The procedure is performed at the hospital using local and IV sedation. A catheter is placed into the uterus. Using x-ray dye and x-ray equipment to confirm the location of the blockage, another catheter is used to open the blockage.

"The procedure itself takes less than one hour, and most patients go home after being observed for one hour after the procedure," Dr. Reddy said. "The technical success rate for the procedure is high, exceeding 90%. The average pregnancy rate after recanalization, without other forms of fertility assistance, is 30%. Since the procedure doesn’t treat the underlying medical issue that caused the tubal blockage in the first place, about 30% of tubes will reocclude within the first 6-12 months," she said.

Male infertility
In some cases, male infertility may be caused by varicoceles. A varicocle is a varicose vein in the testicle and scrotum. Throughout the body, veins carry blood back to the heart using one-way valves. When valves don’t work properly, it causes blood to pool and form varicose veins. Varicose veins are most commonly known for occurring in the legs, but can form anywhere in the body.

"Among infertile couples, 30% of men have varicoceles,” states the Society of Interventional Radiology. An Interventional Radiologist uses catheter-directed embolization to treat varicoceles. Under local anesthesia, the radiologist uses a catheter placed in the groin area to access the affected vein(s). Similar to treatment of varicose veins in the legs, coils or medicines are used to block blood flow to the damaged veins. The body automatically redirects blood to other healthy veins and pathways.

If you have questions about interventional radiology treatments for infertility and if it may be right for you, call our scheduling line to set up a consultation with an interventional radiologist: 763.792.1981 north metro or 952.893.0000 south metro.

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