Fallopian flushing technique helping women became pregnant

New research proves a 100-year-old treatment has significant benefits for fertility.

The study found up to 40 percent of infertile women became pregnant within six months.

It's rather an old-fashioned technique, which flushes a woman's fallopian tubes with either a water-based solution or iodised poppy seed oil.

Dr Guy Gudex, medical director of Repromed, has been using the technique for nearly 15 years.

"We've known for many years that flushing the tubes can help some couples get pregnant," says Dr Gudex.

"The new study's confirmed that Lipiodol (poppy seed oil) seems to have an extra advantage compared to water-based solutions."

In a new study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, the procedure was performed on 1100 women.

Almost 40 percent of infertile women in the oil group and 29 percent of infertile women in the water group achieved successful pregnancies within six months of the technique being performed.

"Over the past century, pregnancy rates among infertile women reportedly increased after their tubes had been flushed with either water or oil during this X-ray procedure. Until now, it has been unclear whether the type of solution used in the procedure was influencing the change in fertility," says lead researcher Professor Ben Mol, from the University of Adelaide's Robinson Research Institute.

"Our results have been even more exciting than we could have predicted, helping to confirm that an age-old medical technique still has an important place in modern medicine."

The research has just been presented at the World Congress on Endometriosis in Canada.

Auckland fertility expert Dr Neil Johnson has conducted previous trials with Lipiodol and says the latest findings could be a game changer.

"It is particularly beneficial for women who have a history of endometriosis and so the fertility improvement for those women is really quite a big fertility improvement."

Experts say infertile couples have a major opportunity to achieve a successful pregnancy without the need for IVF.

In New Zealand the flushing procedure costs between $550 and $1100.

Experts hope that the latest study findings will help revive the technique.

"Further research would need to be conducted into the mechanisms behind what we're seeing. For now, and considering the technique has been used for 100 years without any known side-effects, we believe it is a viable treatment for infertility prior to couples seeking IVF," says Prof Mol.

"Not only is there a known benefit, but this flushing procedure is also a fraction of the cost of one cycle of IVF.

"Considering that 40 percent of women in the oil-based group achieved a successful pregnancy, that's 40 percent of couples who could avoid having to go through the huge costs and emotions associated with IVF treatment," he says.