The word alone sounds more like a disease than a diagnostic tool. A hysterosalpingogram (HSG) is a type of x-ray that is used to determine the health of the fallopian tubes. It is one of the most frequently used diagnostic tests for cases of infertility in women.
How Is The Test Done?
The hysterosalpingogram is performed between days seven and ten of the menstrual cycle, to ensure the patient is not pregnant. A radiologist in the hospital or x-ray clinic most often performs this test. Medical records will be reviewed in advance of the test to apprise the specialist of medications, health history, and any type of information necessary to the situation. It is important to advise the medical staff of any allergies to seafood, iodine, or dyes. If there are allergies to any of these substances, another type of testing will be performed called a sonohysterogram.
A water-based dye is most often used for this x-ray. However, some technicians prefer an oil-based dye for the procedure. A catheter is inserted through the vagina and into the cervix and then the dye is slowly injected into the uterine cavity. It makes its way up through the fallopian tubes and, if there is no blockage, the dye will spill out of the tubes into the abdominal cavity. During the course of the injection of dye, a number of x-rays are taken as the patient moves into various positions as directed. Frequently up to 60 pictures are taken during a hysterosalpingogram. This vast number of photos helps to inform the medical practitioner of all that is going on in terms of the woman's reproductive organs.
So, What Did You See, Doc?
Primarily, the HSG is used to determine the efficacy of the fallopian tubes. It determines whether they are open or blocked. The dye that is injected makes it very easy for the radiologist to locate any blockages, polyps, fibroids, or scar tissue. Endometriosis and defects in the fallopian tubes are also made visible with this technique.
Once the HSG is complete and the readings are interpreted, the medical professional is better able to determine a course of action. Perhaps a laparoscopic surgery is in order, or suggestions may be made as to how to proceed forward.
After The Hysterosalpingogram
There are three main side effects commonly experienced after an HSG. Cramping, which can last for several hours after the x-ray is completed, several days of vaginal discharge, as the body rids itself of the dye used for the x-ray, and light bleeding are all possible after effects of HSG. If the bleeding is very heavy, or if there is pelvic pain or a fever a few days after the HSG has been done, call the doctor.
There are very few complications to an HSG. However, there may be some due to an allergic reaction to the dye, a pelvic infection, or puncturing of the uterus. Antibiotics are sometimes prescribed to reduce the risk of infection.
There is an interesting phenomena associated with the HSG. It has been shown that women have a higher rate of natural pregnancy occurring following an HSG. The thinking is that the dye flushes out some of the blockages in the tubes. While this may be true, the actual purpose of the HSG is as a diagnostic tool, not an infertility treatment.