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What is a Tubal Reversal?

By Meshell Powell
Updated May 17, 2024
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A tubal ligation is a reproductive sterilization surgery in which the fallopian tubes are cut in order to make a woman infertile. This type of surgery is performed on women who do not plan to have any children. However, some women change their minds later and decide upon a tubal reversal in order to attempt to regain fertility. This procedure is not always successful, and not all women are candidates for a tubal reversal. It is important for the patient to discuss individual options with a doctor.

A tubal reversal is considered major surgery and typically takes a couple hours or so. A general anesthetic is used, meaning that the patient is completely asleep during this procedure. If the fallopian tubes were clamped during the tubal ligation, the surgeon will remove the clamps, as well as any devices used to block the fallopian tubes that may have been used during the original surgery. The ends of the fallopian tubes are then reattached to one another by very small stitches, or sutures.

The patient can expect to spend at least one night in the hospital for observation after a tubal reversal. In some cases, a two- or three-day hospital stay may be necessary. During the hospital stay, the medical staff will monitor the incision to make sure there are no signs of infection. A full recovery should be expected within six weeks of the procedure.

New advances in medical technology make it possible to perform a tubal reversal in less than an hour using a type of procedure known as microsurgery. The risk of developing complications such as infection following a tubal reversal are lower with this type of surgery. However, as this procedure is relatively new, it is not used as often as more traditional surgical methods.

Tubal reversal surgery is not a practical choice for all women. Many factors will help the surgeon decide if this is a viable option. Some of the considerations will be the age and overall health of the woman, the type of tubal ligation performed, and the condition of the fallopian tubes and ovaries. An outpatient surgical procedure known as laparoscopy may be performed prior to scheduling the tubal reversal.

Not every woman who undergoes tubal reversal surgery will be able to achieve or maintain a pregnancy, although the odds are better with this procedure than with other methods of conception such as in vitro fertilization. There is a significant risk of developing an ectopic pregnancy, a condition in which the embryo implants itself outside of the uterus, after this type of surgery, so the patient should see her doctor right away if she thinks she may be pregnant.

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