Walid Saleh, MD – Laparoscopy: Avoid It If You Can!
Dr. Walid Saleh of Sher Fertility Dallas Offers Insights on Laparoscopy
Many doctors perform a laparoscopy for infertile women or “want to check that everything is ok prior to IVF”. Unfortunately, while it sounds effective, this is another useless procedure. I advise you to avoid it, no matter what your insurance covers. The reasons are simple: most of the time nothing is found, and even when there is something wrong (by laparoscopy or HSG), surgical repair is not effective.
The fact is that even in young women with normal ovarian reserve, the “yield” of laparoscopy in women with unexplained infertility is very low. In seventy percent of women (70%), the laparoscopy is completely negative. In the 30% with pathology, half have tubal adhesions (15%) and half are found to have endometriosis (15%).
In those with tubal disease, first time surgical correction is notoriously frustrating with a cumulative pregnancy rate of 30-40% over 24 months. For those undergoing a second surgery, pregnancy rates are in the range of 5%. In contrast, IVF is twice as effective over a shorter time without the surgical risks. Of those who ultimately conceive after tubal surgery, the risk of ectopic pregnancy is close to 30%, adding more risk, expenses and frustration to your infertility journey.
When endometriosis is discovered, surgical removal of visible lesions rarely improve the prognosis because endometriosis is a microscopic disease toxic to sperm, eggs and embryos. While the pelvic cavity looks great in the operating room, those lesions re-grow and scar tissue re-forms quickly after surgery. In other words, when the HSG is normal, if all the roads lead to IVF after 3-6 courses of clomiphene/IUI, why do the laparoscopy in the first place?
The only indication for surgery would be relief of painful intercourse or menstruation, not infertility treatment. If the ovaries have large endometrial cysts (“chocolate cysts”), then surgical correction may be justified but ultrasound guided cyst aspiration, a safer and non-invasive approach should also be considered because ovarian cyst removal (cystectomy) can seriously affect your ovarian reserve and affect your overall chances of pregnancy.