A hydrosalpinx is a Fallopian tube with an accumulation of clear fluid caused by blockage. The Fallopian tubes are structures in the female reproductive system that lead from the ovaries to the uterus, and serve to carry mature eggs to the uterus. Fertilization by sperm also takes place in the Fallopian tubes. A hydrosalpinx typically becomes swollen and causes infertility, among other medical problems.
Hydrosalpinx is usually caused by pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) in which the female reproductive organs are inflamed, often as a result of sexually transmitted infection. Gonorrhea and chlamydia are the most common causes. The condition can also be caused by surgical somplications, endometriosis, cancer or the Fallopian tubes or ovaries, or, rarely, tubal tuberculosis. The tubes become blocked as a result of inflammation or a mass, and the fluid that normally passes through begins to build up.
Symptoms include abdominal or pelvic pain and infertility. Often, however, there is no pain and the condition is not noticed if the affected woman is not attempting pregnancy. Diagnosis can be made through ultrasound, an x-ray technique called hysterosalpingogram (HSG) in which a contrast dye is used to image the Fallopian tubes, or laparoscopy, in which a camera is used to inspect the Fallopian tubes through a small incision in the abdomen.
This condition is treated with antibiotics to address any infection, and sometimes by laparoscopic surgery. More invasive surgical procedures to reopen the tubes are no longer common, as the possibility of pregnancy remains low and there is risk of ectopic pregnancy, a dangerous condition in which the fertilized egg is implanted in the Fallopian tube instead of the uterine wall. Ectopic pregnancy is a life threatening medical emergency that negatively impacts a woman's ability to conceive in the future. It most cases, it is not possible to save the child in the case of ectopic pregnancy.
Women with hydrosalpinx are often able to conceive through in-vitro fertilization (IVF). Hydrosalpinx may also be surgically removed, especially if it causes pain. The removal may also promote IVF conception.
Similar, but more serious, conditions are hematosalpinx, in which the Fallopian tube is filled with blood, and pyosalpinx, in which it is filled with pus. Hematosalpinx is associated with ectopic pregnancy, while pyosalpinx is indicative of advanced PID. Both conditions are potentially life threatening, and should be addressed immediately. Another similar condition is tubal phimosis, in which the Fallopian tube is partially blocked. Though tubal phimosis does not lead to fluid buildup, it is associated with infertility and increased risk of ectopic pregnancy.