(Reuters Health) – When it comes to using X-rays to check a woman’s reproductive system in search of a cause for her infertility, oil turns out to be better than water.
A new study concludes that when doctors are debating whether to use a water-based or oil-based contrast fluid to inject into the egg-carrying tubes – part of a test known as hysterosalpingography – infertile women conceive more often with oil.
The pregnancy rate after six months was 40 percent when the oil-based fluid was used versus 29 percent with a water-based contrast media. The rates of live births were 39 percent and 28 percent respectively.
“If a woman has an indication to check her tubes with this test, then my advice would be to use the oil contrast,” chief author Dr. Kim Dreyer of the VU University Medical Center in Amsterdam told Reuters Health by phone.
The results were clear, but why oil would produce more pregnancies remains a mystery.
“We did not look at the mechanism,” she said. “Now we have to do further research to understand why.”
Nonetheless, the results, announced at the 13th World Congress on Endometriosis in Vancouver and published online by the New England Journal of Medicine, suggest an inexpensive step that can be used in some women before in vitro fertilization is attempted.
For years there was a suspicion among doctors that the diagnostic test and the oil contrast medium might enhance pregnancy rates. One review of previously published randomized controlled tests found a 3.6-fold increase in pregnancy. Yet there’s been no clear evidence that oil contrast is better than water.
“When I was doing this study, a lot of people said, ‘We know there’s no difference.’ But some said, ‘Why do the study because we know it works?’ That’s exactly why we had to do this study,” said Dreyer, a gynecology intern.
The results are based on 1,108 women treated in 27 hospitals in the Netherlands.
The volunteers, age 18 to 39, had been unable to conceive for at…