Hydrosalpinx is a condition in which a fallopian tube becomes blocked with fluid due to either illness or injury. It may lead to an unusual discharge, pain, and difficulty conceiving.

The fallopian tubes play an important role in reproduction. They attach to either side of the uterus and transport eggs from either the left or right ovary to the uterus. If an egg meets a sperm cell in the fallopian tubes, conception can occur, and the fertilized egg, called a zygote, will travel to the uterus to implant in the uterine wall.

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Certain illnesses or injuries that affect the end of a fallopian tube can cause it to fill with fluid. This is known as hydrosalpinx. When this condition occurs, it can cause reproductive issues, such as infertility or ectopic pregnancy.

This article discusses the symptoms, causes, and treatment of hydrosalpinx.

Many people living with hydrosalpinx will not experience any symptoms. As a result, they may only discover that they have the condition when they are unable to conceive.

However, those who do experience hydrosalpinx symptoms may have unusual vaginal discharge and abdominal and pelvic pain that may worsen during a menstrual period.

Various conditions may cause hydrosalpinx. The potential causes include:

When a person sustains an injury, the body quickly transports inflammatory cells to the affected area as part of an immune response. The same reaction can occur after surgery.

This can lead to swelling in the fallopian tubes, which can eventually result in closure or blockage.

Typically, a doctor can diagnose hydrosalpinx using one of two main methods:

  • Hysterosalpingogram (HSG): An HSG is a type of X-ray that can show the uterus and fallopian tubes. Doctors often use it to help detect blockages of the tubes. The procedure involves introducing a special dye visible on the X-ray through the vagina and cervix.
  • Laparoscopy: Also known as keyhole surgery, laparoscopy is a surgical procedure in which a surgeon makes small incisions in the abdomen and then inserts a camera. This allows them to see the organs and take remedial action, such as removing fluid.

In some cases, a doctor may use other methods to check for fallopian tube blockages. These include:

  • Sonohysterosalpingography: A sonohysterosalpingography, or sonohysterogram, is a type of ultrasound that uses sound waves to examine the uterus. It can help a doctor detect potential problems with the uterus that may help explain fertility issues. Although doctors cannot usually use it to examine the fallopian tubes directly, it can help them determine whether there is a blockage.
  • Ultrasound scan: A doctor may use an ultrasound scan to check for a blockage in the fallopian tubes. They may be able to identify hydrosalpinx if it is significant.
  • CT or MRI scan: A doctor may choose to use either a CT scan or an MRI scan to help them examine the fallopian tubes and check for blockages.

During conception, the egg travels from an ovary along the fallopian tube to the uterus. Hydrosalpinx can cause the fallopian tube to become blocked with fluid. This blockage prevents the egg from passing down the tube, which means that the sperm cannot reach the egg.

If only one fallopian tube becomes blocked, it is still possible to conceive without intervention, as eggs from the other ovary will still be able to reach the uterus.

However, the fluid buildup in the affected tube could leak into the uterus and interfere with implantation, preventing pregnancy from occurring.

When a person undergoes in vitro fertilization (IVF), doctors retrieve an egg and fertilize it artificially. They then have to transfer the embryo back into the womb. Hydrosalpinx can affect the success of this transfer.

Removing the tube before the implantation of an embryo can improve IVF success rates. For this reason, doctors often recommend completing surgery before undergoing IVF treatment.

In addition, the fluid blockage can result in an ectopic pregnancy, which occurs when a fertilized egg becomes stuck in the fallopian tube and starts to develop into a fetus. This type of pregnancy cannot safely continue, as it will result in the loss of the fetus. Without treatment, it can also be fatal for the pregnant person.

Treatment for hydrosalpinx varies depending on the severity of the blockage. A doctor may recommend laparoscopic surgery to remove scar tissue or other adhesions that could be affecting fertility.

Another type of surgery, known as salpingectomy, involves removing all or part of the affected tube. This procedure may help restore fertility, but it poses the risk of damaging the surrounding ovarian tissue.

If endometriosis is the cause, doctors can remove the endometrial growths. In instances where pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) is the cause, a doctor may prescribe a course of antibiotics to treat any remaining infections.

Another possible treatment is sclerotherapy. Sclerotherapy uses an ultrasound-guided needle to draw fluid out of the affected tube. Doctors then inject a special chemical called a sclerosing agent, which should prevent the fluid from building back up again.

According to a 2017 study, sclerotherapy may be an acceptable alternative to a salpingectomy because it may help improve fertility rates prior to IVF treatment. However, other researchers have argued that the studies on this are insufficient and do not properly take into account the potential side effects.

The following answers provide some additional insight into hydrosalpinx.

What does the word hydrosalpinx mean?

The word hydrosalpinx comes from Greek words and means a tube filled with water. It refers to a fluid buildup in one or both of the fallopian tubes. The buildup may be the result of an infection, such as an STI, or an injury, such as from previous surgery.

Can you treat hydrosalpinx naturally?

Very little scientific evidence supports the use of natural remedies to treat blocked fallopian tubes.

Learn more about natural treatments for unblocking fallopian tubes.

Can you have a successful pregnancy with hydrosalpinx?

Hydrosalpinx affects a person’s fertility. It can make it more difficult to conceive, as at least one tube cannot effectively transport an egg to the uterus. The incidence of the condition among females with infertility is about 30%. However, pregnancy is possible as long as one fallopian tube is open and can successfully transport a fertilized egg to the uterus for implantation.

A person with hydrosalpinx may still be able to get pregnant. However, the chances of a successful pregnancy depend on the cause and severity of the blockage and whether the person has undergone any treatment.

Conception may occur without any treatment, but the chances are lower, and the risks of complications, such as early pregnancy loss or ectopic pregnancy, are more significant.

Treatment for hydrosalpinx may increase the likelihood of a successful pregnancy, particularly if a person undergoes IVF treatment afterward.

Doctors usually recommend undergoing surgery before IVF to increase the likelihood of a successful transfer of the embryo into the womb.