Postoperative procedures for improving fertility following pelvic reproductive surgery

James M N Duffy, Neil Johnson, Gaity Ahmad, Andrew Watson
Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2009, (2): CD001897

BACKGROUND: Hydrotubation with oil-soluble contrast media for unexplained infertility and adhesiolysis for infertility due to peritubal adhesions are primary procedures that are of recognised benefit. It is less clear whether postoperative procedures such as hydrotubation or second-look laparoscopy with adhesiolysis are beneficial following pelvic reproductive surgery.

OBJECTIVES: To assess the value of postoperative hydrotubation and second-look laparoscopy with adhesiolysis following female pelvic reproductive surgery.

SEARCH STRATEGY: We searched the Cochrane Menstrual Disorders and Subfertility Group Specialised Register (August 2008), Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL) (The Cochrane Library 2007, Issue 2), MEDLINE (1966 to August 2008), EMBASE (1980 to August 2008), PsycINFO (1967 to August 2008), Current Contents (1993 to August 2008), Biological Abstracts (1969 to August 2008), CINAHL (1982 to August 2008) and reference lists of identified articles.

SELECTION CRITERIA: All randomised controlled trials in which a postoperative procedure was compared with a control group following pelvic reproductive surgery were considered for inclusion in the review.

DATA COLLECTION AND ANALYSIS: Five randomised controlled trials were identified and included in this updated review. An attempt was made to obtain further information from the authors of all five trials. All trials were assessed for quality. The studied outcomes were pregnancy, live birth, ectopic pregnancy and miscarriage rates, and the rates of tubal patency and procedure-related complications. Review authors extracted the data independently and the odds ratios (OR) were estimated for these dichotomous outcomes.

MAIN RESULTS: Five randomised controlled trials were identified and included in this review. The odds of pregnancy (OR 1.12, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.57 to 2.21) and live birth (OR 0.61, 95% CI 0.24 to 1.59) were not significantly different with postoperative hydrotubation versus no hydrotubation. The odds of pregnancy (OR 0.96, 95% CI 0.44 to 2.07) or live birth (OR 0.67, 95% CI 0.19 to 2.32) were also not significantly different with second-look laparoscopy and adhesiolysis versus no second-look laparoscopy. Whether hydrotubation was early or late and whether hydrotubation fluid contained steroid or not had no significant impact on the odds of pregnancy or live birth. Late antibiotic hydrotubation increased the odds of at least one patent fallopian tube when compared with early hydrotubation in women (OR 7.72, 95% CI 2.50 to 8.93). The odds of infective morbidity significantly increased with early hydrotubation when compared with late non-antibiotic hydrotubation (OR 4.72, 95% CI 2.50 to 8.93). When comparing late hydrotubation following tubal stent removal with early hydrotubation in women who had no tubal stenting, there was no significant difference in pregnancy or live birth rates.

AUTHORS' CONCLUSIONS: There is insufficient evidence to support the routine practice of hydrotubation or second-look laparoscopy following female pelvic reproductive surgery. The studies on which this conclusion is based were either of poor quality or underpowered. These interventions should be performed in the context of a good quality, adequately powered randomised controlled trial. Postoperative hydrotubation with fluid containing antibiotic may offer benefit over hydrotubation fluid without antibiotic following tubal surgery. A randomised controlled trial of postoperative hydrotubation with antibiotic-containing fluid versus no hydrotubation for improving fertility following tubal surgery is justified.

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