The Right To Know: use of laparoscopy to help diagnose unexplained infertility

One of the most challenging aspects of infertility care is helping couples understand why they have not yet become pregnant. About 20-30% of couples will have no definitive diagnosis after completing a standard infertility evaluation[r1] .  In today’s fast-paced treatment paradigm, some patients prefer to move forward with treatment without further clarification. Although oftentimes appropriate, this strategy should not be applied to every patient/couple. Laparoscopy and hysteroscopy are minimally invasive, out-patient surgeries [r2] that can provide a diagnosis and sometimes even offer improved pregnancy rates if scar tissue or endometriosis is found and treated at the time of surgery.

Women with infertility are about eight times more likely to have endometriosis than women that have been pregnant. Treatment of endometriosis can not only reduce pain but also improve pregnancy rates as well. In fact, a large, randomized meta-analysis[r3]  of the available research found that treating endometriosis was associated with about a 60% increase in the chance for a successful pregnancy. Additionally, if there is scar tissue preventing the egg from reaching the fallopian tubes this can also be identified and treated. So consideration of diagnostic surgical procedures can be beneficial. The challenge is in deciding which patients should pursue this option further.

A more recent study [r4] investigated the usefulness of these diagnostic surgical procedures from a financial perspective. They found that laparoscopy was cost-effective in improving pregnancy rates/outcomes based upon many factors including the potential impact of endometriosis. Finally, they also found that undergoing diagnostic surgery was associated with a lower rate of patients “dropping out” of fertility treatment before becoming pregnant. This suggests that having all of the information available prior to treatment is preferred by some couples experiencing infertility. In summary, if you are having trouble conceiving and want more information, minimally invasive surgery may be your best next step.

Robert Greene, MD, FACOG

CNY Fertility Center

e-mail me at rgreene@cnyfertility.com

Call our toll-free number at 800.539.9870 or request a consult here.

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