The Role of IVF in Cases of Tubal Damage

Tubal damage is one of the commonest causes of infertility. It is most often due to pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) caused by sexually transmitted bacterial infection with chlamydia trachomatis and Neisseria gonorrhea. Acute PID caused by such usually are associated with severe clinical manifestations such as rapid onset of fever, peritonitis and severe abdominal pain and as such cases are usually readily identified and treated. The problem is that the diagnosis is often missed because early symptoms mimic lesser clinical problems such as urinary, cervical and vaginal inflammation. As a result, (especially in 1st world countries) doctors often tend to “jump the gun” and initiate treatment with (often the wrong) antibacterial agents, without first conducting the appropriate urinary, cervical and vaginal cultures that are required to make a definitive diagnosis. This serves to explain why in countries such as the U.S.A, more than 70% of infertility caused tubal damage is unassociated with a history of a prior acute PID attack and goes undetected until irreparable damage has already been done and comes as a surprise.

It is essential to recognize that PID almost always affects both tubes and even when one tube appears to be open, both are likely to be damaged and functionally compromised. The reason that this is important to know is that patients are often erroneously led to believe that because one tube appears to be patent, they have a good chance of conceiving via that tube, even if the other tube is blocked.

In some cases, when inflammation results from retention of products of conception (following miscarriage or child birth), the uterine lining (endometrium) might become infected (endometritis), leading to scarring and sometimes permanent damage with resultant inability to thicken sufficiently (in response to estrogen), to support an implanting pregnancy. Other less frequent causes of tubal damage include, adhesions resulting from a ruptured or twisted ovarian cyst, pelvic surgery, peritonitis (due to conditions such as appendicitis, diverticulitis, Crohn’s disease, Ulcerative colitis ,trauma, etc.) or from endometriosis. Tubal damage through infection with tuberculosis is uncommon is a serious condition and irreparable. It is common in Asia (especially in India) but fortunately rarely encountered in the U.S.A. and other 1st world countries.

It is noteworthy, that a history of an ectopic pregnancy (pregnancy growing in the Fallopian tube) is highly suggestive of preceding tubal damage, usually due to PID. This is why once a woman has had an ectopic pregnancy, she has a reduced chance of conceiving again, and if she does, the chance of a second ectopic is about 20 times greater.

Tubal blockage can readily be diagnosed by a hysterosalpingogram (HSG) where a radio-opaque dye is injected through the cervix into the uterus. Successive x-rays are then taken in rapid succession to track passage of the dye into the uterus and then to determine whether it passes into the Fallopian tubes and then spills into the pelvic cavity. It is important to recognize that determination of the tubes being patent does not rule out tubal damage. All it tells you is that the petal-like fimbriated ends of the tubes have not fused and blocking their ends. It is especially important to take bear this fact in mind whenever the tubes are found to be open, in spite of there being a history of prior PID. The diagnosis can also be made by performing an out-patient surgical procedure known as laparoscopy where a thin telescope-like instrument introduced into the pelvic cavity allows visualization of pelvic organs and thus the failure of dye injected via the cervix into the uterus fails to pass via the tubes into the pelvic cavity.

Tubal blockage can occur anywhere along the course of the fallopian tube(s). It sometimes occurs in the part of the Fallopian tube that passes through the wall of the uterus (this is often due to post-pregnancy endometritis) It can also occur in the mid-section of the tube. Most commonly however, it occludes the far end of the tubes.

In some cases Fallopian tubes damaged by PID will become distended with trapped tubal secretions that often contain toxins that are capable of killing eggs, sperm and embryos. Such distended Fallopian tubes (hydrosalpinges) can leak fluid back into the uterine cavity where the can destroy transferred embryos upon contact. This is why patients who have hydrosalpinges and are considering undergoing IVF, should first have hydrosalpinges surgically removed or (at the very least) have the affected tube(s) surgically clipped or tied as they emerge through the uterine wall. This will avoid subsequent back flow when IVF is performed. Understandably, it is often hard for patients to come to terms with the fact that following such surgery they no longer have any possibility of having functional Fallopian Tubes. Such women should be counseled that hydrosalpinges are functionless tubes anyway and that any attempt to open such tubes surgically in an attempt to restore fertility would be an exercise in futility, anyway.

In a nutshell: Infertility associated with tubal blockage, especially if due to PID, is an absolute indication for IVF. I would go even further in stating that any tubal damage due to PID, whether or not it is associated with blockage is an indication for IVF, especially when detected in older women and those who because of age or diminished ovarian reserve (DOR) have no time to waste on other less successful treatments.

Finally, tubal surgery is a very poor alternative to IVF. Besides, with more than 10% of pregnancies that occur following surgery to correct on PID-related damage ending up as ectopic pregnancies (a potentially life-threatening situation). Why take such a risk?


Dr. Geoffrey Sher

Approximately 1 out of every 100 embryos will implant and grow outside of the uterine cavity (almost always) in a fallopian tube. This is defined as an ectopic pregnancy. Infrequently, an ectopic pregnancy attaches to an ovary or to one or more other pelvic organs. On very rare occasions (1;1,000), one twin attaches and grows in the uterine cavity with the other growing outside the uterus (i.e. a heterotopic pregnancy).
There is an ever present risk that a tubal (ectopic) pregnancy might rupture causing potentially catastrophic internal hemorrhage. Accordingly any symptoms suggesting that such bleeding has started, requires immediate confirmation of the diagnosis followed by emergency treatment.
While on rare occasions, an extrauterine (ectopic) can proceed well into pregnancy, it almost always happens prior to the 8th week. There is an increase in the incidence of ectopic pregnancy after IVF conceptions where it reportedly occurs in about 3% of cases and a woman who has had one ectopic pregnancy has almost four times as great a risk of an ectopic in a future pregnancy. In fact with every subsequent ectopic this risk of a recurrence increases dramatically.

The fertilization of the human egg normally takes place in the fallopian tube. The embryo then travels into the uterus, where it implants into the endometrial lining 5-6 days after ovulation. Anything that delays the passage of the embryo down the fallopian tube can result in the embryo hatching and sending its “root system” into the wall of the fallopian tube and initiating growth within the tube. One of the most common predisposing factors is pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) in which microorganisms, such as Chlamydia, and Gonococcus damage the inner lining (endosalpinx) and eventually also the muscular walls of the tube(s) by the formation of scar tissue. The endosalpinx has a very complex and delicate internal architecture, with small hairs and secretions that help to propel the embryo toward the uterine cavity. Once damaged, this lining can never regenerate. This is one of the reasons why women who manage to conceive following surgery to unblock fallopian tubes damaged by PID, have about a 1:4 chance of a subsequent pregnancy developing within the fallopian tube (ectopic).

Congenital malformations of the fallopian tube, associated with shortening of, or small pockets and side channels within, the tube are capable of interrupting the smooth passage of the embryo down the fallopian tube, is another cause of an ectopic pregnancy.

Since the lining of the fallopian tube does not represent an optimal site for healthy implantation, a large percentage of pregnancies that gain early attachment to its inner lining will usually be absorbed before the woman even knows that she is pregnant. This is often referred to as a tubal abortion.

The advent of advanced sonographic and hormonal monitoring technology now makes it possible to detect an ectopic pregnancy much earlier than previously, …usually well in advance of it rupturing. A decade or two ago, the diagnosis of an ectopic pregnancy, ruptured or not, was an indication for immediate laparotomy to avoid the risk of catastrophic hemorrhagic shock. This often resulted in the affected fallopian tube having to be completely removed, sometimes along with the adjacent ovary. In the late 1980’s, early conservative surgical intervention by laparoscopy began replacing laparotomy (a wide incision made in the abdominal wall) for the treatment of ectopic pregnancy, often allowing the affected fallopian tube to be preserved and shortening the period of post-surgical convalescence. In the 90’s, early detection combined with the advent of medical management with methotrexate (MTX) has all but eliminated the need for surgical intervention in the majority of patients. If administered early enough, MTX will allow spontaneous resorbtion of the pregnancy and a dramatic reduction in the incidence of catastrophic bleeding. This was especially true in ectopic pregnancies arising from In Vitro Fertilization, where the early progress of pregnancy is usually carefully monitored with hormone levels and ultrasound.

Classically women with an ectopic pregnancy present with the following symptoms:

• Missed menstrual period: Although some patients will have spotting or other abnormal bleeding. The pregnancy test will be positive in such cases.

• Vaginal bleeding. When a pregnancy inadvertently implants in the fallopian tube the lining of the uterus undergoes profound hormonal changes associated with pregnancy (primarily associated with the hormone progesterone). When the embryo dies, the lining of the uterus separates. Initially, vaginal bleeding is dark and usually is quite scanty, even less than with a normal menstrual period. In some cases, of ectopic pregnancy will bleeding is more severe, similar to that experienced in association with a miscarriage. This sometimes leads to an ectopic pregnancy initially being misdiagnosed as a miscarriage and is the reason to examine the material that is passed vaginally, for evidence of products of conception.

• Pain. In the early stages this is typically cramp-like in nature, located on one or another side of the lower abdomen. It is caused by spasm of the muscular wall of the fallopian tube(s). When a tubal pregnancy ruptures the woman will usually experience an abrupt onset of severe abdominal followed by light headedness, coldness and clamminess and will often collapse due to shock. Her pulse will become rapid and thready and her blood pressure will drop. Miscarriage. Sometimes the woman will experience pain in the right shoulder. The reason for this is that that blood which tracts along the side of the abdominal cavity finds its way to the area immediately below the diaphragm, above the liver (on the patient’s right side), irritates the endings of the phrenic nerve, which supplies that part of the diaphragm. This results in the referral of the pain to the neck and the right shoulder. The clinical picture is often so typical that making the diagnosis usually presents no difficulty at all. However, with less typical presentations the most important conditions to differentiate from an ectopic pregnancy are: a ruptured ovarian cyst, appendicitis, acute pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), or an inevitable

• Vaginal bleeding. When a pregnancy inadvertently implants in the fallopian tube the lining of the uterus undergoes profound hormonal changes associated with pregnancy (primarily associated with the hormone progesterone). When the embryo dies, the lining of the uterus separates. Initially, vaginal bleeding is dark and usually is quite scanty, even less than with a normal menstrual period. In some cases, of ectopic pregnancy will bleeding is more severe, similar to that experienced in association with a miscarriage. This sometimes leads to ectopic pregnancy initially being misdiagnosis as a miscarriage and is the reason that we often want to examine the material that is passed vaginally, for evidence of products of conception.

The easiest and most common method of diagnosing an ectopic pregnancy is by tracking the rate of rise in the blood levels of hCG. With a normal intrauterine pregnancy, these usually double every two days throughout the first few weeks. While a slow rate of increase in blood hCG usually suggests an impending miscarriage, it might also point to an ectopic pregnancy. Thus the hCG blood levels should be followed serially until a clear pattern emerges.

A vaginal ultrasound examination usually will clinch the diagnosis by showing the ectopic pregnancy within a fallopian tube and if the tube has already ruptured or internal bleeding has occurred, ultrasound examination will inevitably detect the presence of free fluid into the abdominal cavity.

If there has been a significant amount of intra-abdominal bleeding, irritation of the peritoneal membrane will cause the abdominal wall to become hard tense and, depending on the amount of internal bleeding abdominal distention will be evident. Palpation of the abdominal wall will evoke significant pain and when a vaginal examination is done, movement of the cervix will produce excruciating pain, especially on the side of the affected fallopian tube.

Surgical Treatment: In questionable situations laparoscopy is usually performed for diagnostic purposes. If an ectopic pregnancy is in fact detected, a small longitudinal incision over the tubal pregnancy will allow its removal, without necessitating removal of the tube. (linear salpingectomy). Bleeding points on the fallopian tube can usually be accessed directly and appropriately ligated (tied) via the laparoscope. Sometimes the damage to the fallopian tube has been so extensive that the entire tube will require removal.

On occasions where very severe intra-abdominal bleeding heralds a potential catastrophe, a laparotomy (an incision made to open the abdominal cavity) is performed to stop the bleeding post haste. In such cases a blood transfusion is usually required and may be life saving.

Medical Treatment: The introduction of Methotrexate (MTX) therapy for the treatment of ectopic pregnancy has profoundly reduced the need for surgery in most patients. MTX is a chemotherapeutic that kills rapidly dividing cells, such as those present in the “root system” of the conceptus. Extremely low doses of MTX are used to treat ectopic pregnancy. Accordingly the side effects that are often associated with such chemotherapy used for the treatment of other conditions are seldom seen. It is important to confirm that the ectopic pregnancy has not yet ruptured prior to administering MTX.

MTX is given by intramuscular injection. Prior to its administration, blood is drawn to get a baseline blood hCG level. After the injection of MTX the patient is allowed to return home with strict instructions that she should always have someone with her and never be alone in the ensuing week. The concern is that were the patient to be on her own and an intraabdominal bleed were to occur, she might not readily be able to access someone who could get her to the hospital immediately. Instructions are also given to look for early signs that might point towards severe intra-abdominal bleeding such as the sudden onset of severe pain, light-headedness or fainting.

The patient returns to the doctor’s office four days later to check the blood hCG level. Three days later (7 days after MTX), the level is checked again. By this time the hCG level should have dropped at least 15% from the value on day 4. If not, a second MTX injection is given and the blood levels are tested twice weekly until hCG level is undetectable. Once this occurs, vaginal bleeding will usually ensue within a week or two.

It is important to note, especially in cases where more than one embryo or blastocyst has been transferred to the uterine cavity or fallopian tube (as with Tubal embryo transfer –TET/ZIFT), that implantation may occur in two sites simultaneously (i.e. in the fallopian tube as well as inside the uterine cavity). This is referred to as a heterotopic pregnancy. It is therefore important that before administering MTX, which will cause the death and absorption of any early pregnancy, that the physician makes certain that he/she is not dealing with a heterotopic pregnancy. In such cases, surgery is required to treat the tubal ectopic, while every precaution is taken to protect the pregnancy growing within the uterine cavity.

When an ectopic pregnancy occurs following infertility treatment, there is the added advantage that the physician will be on the lookout for the earliest possible signs of trouble. The performance of a vaginal ultrasound within two weeks of a positive blood pregnancy (HCG) test following IVF allows for early detection of the unruptured pregnancy and timely intervention with MTX and/or laparoscopy.

Geoff Sher


I live in Wa state. How do you coordinate care for IVF if the patient does not live in Vegas? Do they need to fly down and stay the entire protocol?

Dr. Geoffrey Sher

I typically schedule my IVF cycles months in advance, for specific dates. The cycles last about two weeks, and I do limit the number of cases in each batch in order to make sure I can personally monitor the cycles, and dedicate special attention to each patient. Given my rather busy schedule, it is always advisable for patients to schedule possible treatment for the earliest convenient date. Both, the financial and clinical coordinators help work out logistic issues, and assist in finalizing the ideal dates for r treatment.

We recognize that regardless of the nature of your reproductive issue both partners have a stake in the process and its outcome. Accordingly both would usually wish to be present throughout most of the 7-14 days of management. From a practical standpoint however, this might not always be possible (or even necessary). In such cases, we would be able to provide the male partner at least 3 days advance notice of when he would be to be present in Las Vegas for one day. In cases where frozen embryo transfers (FETs) are being done, the male partner will not even be required to be present in Las Vegas. Moreover, selectively when sperm is required from a fertile male partner, we can even arrange for frozen semen sample to be shipped timely for the fertilization process.
There is rarely a need for women undergoing controlled ovarian stimulation (COS) for IVF to begin serial monitoring by ultrasound and/or blood testing prior to the 7th day of stimulation. As such, the female partner is not required to arrive in Las Vegas prior to the 7th day of fertility drug administration, All preliminary preparatory testing can thus be done at your home setting by your primary GP or OB/GYN, including (if needed) bloodwork and a baseline ultrasound examination with the start of the menstrual period that launches the cycle of ovarian stimulation. After treatment is completed, you can return home. We will follow up with patients by phone or Skype communication. We will also interact as needed with a primary care OB/GYN to supervise post-treatment and early-pregnancy management.

While this process might at first glance seem somewhat complex, in reality with a dedicated Nurse case manager assisting, we have developed over the past 30 years of providing infertility treatment to more than 70,000 patients a very easy, convenient, safe and effective method for treating local patients as well as those traveling to Las Vegas from out of state or from abroad.

I always provide my cell phone number and email address (702) 281-7437 to all my patients and invite them to call me if any questions or issues that need to be addressed, arise. I also have a dedicated Concierge in mygeam. Her role is to assist patients in any/all non medical issues.

If you are interested in seeking my advice or services, I urge you to contact my concierge, Julie Dahan ASAP to set up a Skype or an in-person consultation with me. You can also contact Julie by phone or via email at 702-533-2691/ You can also apply online at

The 4th edition of my newest book ,”In Vitro Fertilization, the ART of Making Babies” is available as a down-load through or from most bookstores and public libraries.

Geoffrey Sher

Amy Amerson

Hi Dr. Sher

My diagnosis was bilateral hyrdosalphinx so both my tubes were removed before I started the ivf process. My first ivf I had 13 eggs 6 fertilized and by day 3 they cleaved wouldn’t continue to grow so it was canceled. Next cycle I got 25 eggs 18 fertilized and by day 5 there was only two that made it to blastocyst stage. They were graded BB and BC. They didn’t take. Do you think its from scarring or my eggs are bad? I’m only 27 and all other test came back great.

Dr. Geoffrey Sher

There are many possible explanations but in my opinion, by far tghe most important is the protocol used for ovarian stimulation.

Whenever a patient fails to achieve a viable pregnancy following embryo transfer (ET), the first question asked is why! Was it simply due to, bad luck?, How likely is the failure to recur in future attempts and what can be done differently, to avoid it happening next time?.
It is an indisputable fact that any IVF procedure is at least as likely to fail as it is to succeed. Thus when it comes to outcome, luck is an undeniable factor. Notwithstanding, it is incumbent upon the treating physician to carefully consider and address the causes of IVF failure before proceeding to another attempt:
1. Age: The chance of a woman under 35Y of age having a baby per embryo transfer is about 35-40%. From there it declines progressively to under 5% by the time she reaches her mid-forties. This is largely due to declining chromosomal integrity of the eggs with advancing age…”a wear and tear effect” on eggs that are in the ovaries from birth.
2. Embryo Quality/”competency (capable of propagating a viable pregnancy)”. As stated, the woman’s age plays a big role in determining egg/embryo quality/”competency”. This having been said, aside from age the protocol used for controlled ovarian stimulation (COS) is the next most important factor. It is especially important when it comes to older women, and women with diminished ovarian reserve (DOR) where it becomes essential to be aggressive, and to customize and individualize the ovarian stimulation protocol.
We used to believe that the uterine environment is more beneficial to embryo development than is the incubator/petri dish and that accordingly, the earlier on in development that embryos are transferred to the uterus, the better. To achieve this goal, we used to select embryos for transfer based upon their day two or microscopic appearance (“grade”). But we have since learned that the further an embryo has advanced in its development, the more likely it is to be “competent” and that embryos failing to reach the expanded blastocyst stage within 5-6 days of being fertilized are almost invariably “incompetent” and are unworthy of being transferred. Moreover, the introduction into clinical practice about a decade ago, (by Levent Keskintepe PhD and myself) of Preimplantation Genetic Sampling (PGS), which assesses for the presence of all the embryos chromosomes (complete chromosomal karyotyping), provides another tool by which to select the most “competent” embryos for transfer. This methodology has selective benefit when it comes to older women, women with DOR, cases of unexplained repeated IVF failure and women who experience recurrent pregnancy loss (RPL).
3. The number of the embryos transferred: Most patients believe that the more embryos transferred the greater the chance of success. To some extent this might be true, but if the problem lies with the use of a suboptimal COS protocol, transferring more embryos at a time won’t improve the chance of success. Nor will the transfer of a greater number of embryos solve an underlying embryo implantation dysfunction (anatomical molecular or immunologic).Moreover, the transfer of multiple embryos, should they implant, can and all too often does result in triplets or greater (high order multiples) which increases the incidence of maternal pregnancy-induced complications and of premature delivery with its serious risks to the newborn. It is for this reason that I rarely recommend the transfer of more than 2 embryos at a time and am moving in the direction of advising single embryo transfers …especially when it comes to transferring embryos derived through the fertilization of eggs from young women.
4. Implantation Dysfunction (ID): Implantation dysfunction is a very common (often overlooked) cause of “unexplained” IVF failure. This is especially the case in young ovulating women who have normal ovarian reserve and have fertile partners. Failure to identify, typify, and address such issues is, in my opinion, an unfortunate and relatively common cause of repeated IVF failure in such women. Common sense dictates that if ultrasound guided embryo transfer is performed competently and yet repeated IVF attempts fail to propagate a viable pregnancy, implantation dysfunction must be seriously considered. Yet ID is probably the most overlooked factor. The most common causes of implantation dysfunction are:
a. A“ thin uterine lining”
b. A uterus with surface lesions in the cavity (polyps, fibroids, scar tissue)
c. Immunologic implantation dysfunction (IID)
d. Endocrine/molecular endometrial receptivity issues
Certain causes of infertility are repetitive and thus cannot readily be reversed. Examples include advanced age of the woman; severe male infertility; immunologic infertility associated with alloimmune implantation dysfunction (especially if it is a “complete DQ alpha genetic match between partners plus uterine natural killer cell activation (NKa).
I strongly recommend that you visit Then go to my Blog and access the “search bar”. Type in the titles of any/all of the articles listed below, one by one. “Click” and you will immediately be taken to those you select. Please also take the time to post any questions or comments with the full expectation that I will (as always) respond promptly.

• The IVF Journey: The importance of “Planning the Trip” Before Taking the Ride”
• Controlled Ovarian Stimulation (COS) for IVF: Selecting the ideal protocol
• IVF: Factors Affecting Egg/Embryo “competency” during Controlled Ovarian Stimulation(COS)
• The Fundamental Requirements For Achieving Optimal IVF Success
• Use of GnRH Antagonists (Ganirelix/Cetrotide/Orgalutron) in IVF-Ovarian Stimulation Protocols.
• Ovarian Stimulation in Women Who have Diminished Ovarian Reserve (DOR): Introducing the Agonist/Antagonist Conversion protocol
• Anti Mullerian Hormone (AMH) Measurement to Assess Ovarian Reserve and Design the Optimal Protocol for Controlled Ovarian Stimulation (COS) in IVF.
• Human Growth Hormone Administration in IVF: Does it Enhances Egg/Embryo Quality and Outcome?
• The BCP: Does Launching a Cycle of Controlled Ovarian Stimulation (COS). Coming off the BCP Compromise Response?
• Blastocyst Embryo Transfers Should be the Standard of Care in IVF
• IVF: How Many Attempts should be considered before Stopping?
• “Unexplained” Infertility: Often a matter of the Diagnosis Being Overlooked!
• IVF Failure and Implantation Dysfunction:
• The Role of Immunologic Implantation Dysfunction (IID) & Infertility (IID):PART 1-Background
• Immunologic Implantation Dysfunction (IID) & Infertility (IID):PART 2- Making a Diagnosis
• Immunologic Dysfunction (IID) & Infertility (IID):PART 3-Treatment
• Thyroid autoantibodies and Immunologic Implantation Dysfunction (IID)
• Immunologic Implantation Dysfunction: Importance of Meticulous Evaluation and Strategic Management:(Case Report
• Intralipid and IVIG therapy: Understanding the Basis for its use in the Treatment of Immunologic Implantation Dysfunction (IID)
• Intralipid (IL) Administration in IVF: It’s Composition; How it Works; Administration; Side-effects; Reactions and Precautions
• Natural Killer Cell Activation (NKa) and Immunologic Implantation Dysfunction in IVF: The Controversy!
• Endometrial Thickness, Uterine Pathology and Immunologic Factors
• Vaginally Administered Viagra is Often a Highly Effective Treatment to Help Thicken a Thin Uterine Lining
• Treating Out-of-State and Out-of-Country Patients at Sher-IVF in Las Vegas:
• A personalized, stepwise approach to IVF
• How Many Embryos should be transferred: A Critical Decision in IVF.
• The Role of Nutritional Supplements in Preparing for IVF

Please call or email Julie Dahan, my patient concierge. She will guide you on how to set up an in-person or Skype consultation with me. You can reach Julie at on her cell phone or via email at any time:
Julie Dahan
• Email:
• Phone: 702-533-2691
 800-780-7437

Geoff Sher

I also suggest that you access the 4th edition of my book ,”In Vitro Fertilization, the ART of Making Babies”. It is available as a down-load through or from most bookstores and public libraries.


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