We periodically write case reports on patients who undergo tubal ligation reversal at Chapel Hill Tubal Reversal Center. The patient we will profile today had a ligation reversal procedure at our center last month.
She and her husband traveled to Chapel Hill from West Virginia. She is 34 years old and previously was an in-vitro fertilization (IVF) nurse. She is the mother of two children (ages 5 and 2). Her husband works as an engineer and is the father of both of their children. She had a tubal ligation after her second child because of two difficult, high-risk pregnancies.
Her first pregnancy was a vaginal birth complicated by heavy post-partum bleeding. Her heavy bleeding required a dilation and curettage (D and C) and emergency abdominal surgery to control the blood loss. She was diagnosed as having a placenta accreta. This is a condition where the placenta has invaded into the uterus too deeply and does not separate normally from the uterus at the time of delivery. She recovered from this surgery and eventually had a second pregnancy. This child was delivered by C-section and she had a Pomeroy tubal ligation done during the C-section. The operative report described tying and cutting the tubes as well as burning the ends. The pathology report described 1.5 cm tubal segments as being removed.
She explained to us, “My decision to have a tubal ligation was not done prayerfully but was more of a medically made decision.” She and her husband now desire more children in their life, and they traveled to Chapel Hill Tubal Reversal Center to have her tubal ligation reversed.
We were concerned that her doctor described in the operative report the tubal cauterization (burning) after tying and cutting the tubes. Since the mention of the cauterization was vague (we had no idea if a small segment was burned or the entire tube was burned) we discussed starting with a screening laparoscopy. Our patient was able to talk to her doctor who performed the tubal ligation. The doctor assured her only the ends of the tubes were burned. Since this can be a common practice and seemed minimal, the decision was made to proceed with ligation reversal without starting with a screening laparoscopy.
During her operation we found the right fallopian tube was abnormal. The right tube was long and healthy appearing, but there was no fimbriated end of the tube. This area is one of the most critical areas of the tube. The fimbriated ends act like millions of small fingers, which pick up the egg and direct the egg down the tube. The repair of this tube would require a more difficult microsurgical salpingostomy and creation of a ‘neo-fimbriated’ end of tube.
A microsurgical salpingosotomy was performed on her right tube. The left side was more normal- we had two tubal segments that we repaired with the usual anastomosis procedure. The entire operation was about one hour and fifteen minutes.
The story of this patient illustrates several important concepts:
1. She was a knowledgeable medical professional. She understood what it meant to have a tubal ligation. Many patients of all walks of life will have changes of heart as their lives change. Even medical professionals will make health care decisions for themselves, which later turn out to not be right for them. None of us can predict the future.
2. She was an IVF nurse and was aware of the pros and cons of tubal ligation reversal vs IVF. She and her husband decided ligation reversal was a more appropriate path for them.
3. Operative and pathology reports provide helpful information in planning for tubal repair, but they can sometimes be misleading.
4. The right tube was very difficult to repair. Often we will question ourselves as to whether a difficult tube should be repaired or should we just focus on the ‘better’ tube. We can never predict with 100% certain what will or will not work to help get a patient pregnant, so we like to give all patients the benefit of the doubt and try at all costs to open all the tubes we operate on.
We wish her and her husband a successful outcome of her tubal reversal operation and hope their prayerful decision will be soon rewarded.
Submitted by Dr. Charles Monteith