Tubal Sterilization

  • Author: Robert K Zurawin, MD; Chief Editor: Michel E Rivlin, MD  more...
Updated: Jan 22, 2015


Prior to the 1960s, female sterilization in the United States was generally performed only for medical indications (when additional pregnancies would be hazardous to the mother). Many centers used a formula (endorsed by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists until 1969) in which age multiplied by parity had to be greater than or equal to 120 before elective sterilization could be considered. The changing cultural climate in the 1960s encouraged women to reduce family size. The popularization of sex steroid hormone contraception (oral contraception) is credited for beginning the sexual revolution and allowing women to use safe, reversible contraception that also provided noncontraceptive benefits.

During the same decade, surgical advances resulted in safe, less invasive female sterilization procedures when childbearing was no longer desired. Most importantly, insurance companies began to cover female sterilization procedures, making the procedure accessible to millions of women in the United States previously unable to afford the surgery.

Currently, approximately 700,000 bilateral tubal sterilizations are performed annually in the United States. Of these, half are performed postpartum and half are ambulatory interval procedures. Eleven million US women aged 15-44 years rely on bilateral tubal occlusion for contraception, and more than 190 million couples worldwide use surgical sterilization as a safe and reliable method of permanent contraception.


History of the Procedure

See the list below:

  • In 1823, Blundell first suggested tubal ligation for sterilization before the Medical Society of London.
  • In 1876, Porro performed a cesarean hysterectomy with the secondary intention of sterilization.
  • In 1880 in Toledo, OH, Lungren was first to ligate a woman's tubes.
  • In 1885, Thomas suggested tubal ligation as opposed to Porro's operation for sterilization.
  • In 1895, Dührssen used a double ligature and was the first to perform tubal ligation via colpotomy.
  • In 1897, Kehrer and Buettner divided the tubes between the sutures.
  • In 1898, Ruhl cut the tube 5 cm from the uterus and sutured the ends to a vaginal incision.
  • In 1898, Rose removed the tubes at the cornua.
  • In 1919, Madlener crushed and ligated the tubes with nonabsorbable suture.
  • In 1924, Irving published his method in which the proximal portion of the severed tube is buried in a small myometrial tunnel on the anterior uterine surface.
  • In 1930, colleagues posthumously published the Pomeroy technique in the New York State Journal of Medicine.
  • In 1936 in Switzerland, Bosch performed the first laparoscopic tubal occlusion as a method for sterilization.
  • In the 1940s, Hajime Uchida developed his technique, which can be performed as an interval or puerperal procedure. He subsequently reported on his personal experience with more than 20,000 tubal sterilizations over 28 years without a known failure. [1]
  • In the 1960s, the era of laparoscopy began with unipolar electrocoagulation of the fallopian tube. Failure rates and safety concerns associated with both unipolar and bipolar electrosurgery led to the development of laparoscopic devices that do not require radiofrequency energy.
  • In 1973, Jaroslav Hulka devised a spring clip that could be applied laparoscopically. [2]
  • In 1981, Filshie introduced a titanium and silicone clip that was widely used in Europe. It was not introduced into the United States until the 1990s. [3]
  • In 2002, the Essure hysteroscopic sterilization procedure was approved for use in the United States.

Procedures to block the fallopian tube may be divided into those performed at the time of delivery or shortly thereafter, and those performed at another time. The latter are referred to as interval sterilization procedures. Minilaparotomy (Uchida, Pomeroy, or Parkland technique) is the most common procedure in the immediate postpartum period, performed via periumbilical incision following vaginal delivery. The proximity of the uterine fundus in relation to the umbilicus during the immediate postpartum period facilitates this approach. However, there is a much higher incidence of poststerilization remorse associated with procedures performed immediately following delivery.

The laparoscopic approach may be used at any time other than the postpartum period and involves either a single umbilical 10 mm port, or a smaller umbilical camera port and a secondary suprapubic port through which the various devices are introduced.

Although local anesthetic techniques have been described and used for transabdominal approaches, the vast majority of intraperitoneal tubal interruption procedures in the United States are performed using general or spinal anesthesia. And by definition, all require incisions that invade the peritoneal cavity, thereby introducing complications related to general or spinal anesthesia as well as injury to intra-abdominal structures.

Several attempts have been made in the past to achieve transcervical tubal blockage using radiofrequency, chemical scarring with quinacrine, and the injection of liquid silicone. However, these have all failed for safety or efficacy reasons.

In November 2002, the Food and Drug Administration approved the use of Essure microinserts (Conceptus, Inc, Mountain View, Calif) for hysteroscopic sterilization. The devices consist of polyethylene terephthalate (PET) fibers wrapped around a stainless steel core, surrounded by 24 coils of nickel-titanium alloy. After the microinserts are deployed, the PET fibers induce the tubal epithelium to undergo fibrosis, which results in proximal tubal occlusion. This process takes approximately 3 months to form complete occlusion, which is then documented by a hysterosalpingogram.



Tubal sterilization results in mechanically blocking or interrupting the fallopian tubes to prevent sperm from fertilizing the egg.



Tubal sterilization is indicated for women who want a permanent method of contraception and are free of any gynecologic pathology that would otherwise dictate an alternate procedure. Tubal sterilization is also indicated for women in whom a pregnancy could represent a significant clinical and medical risk.


Relevant Anatomy

See the list below:

  • The 2 fallopian tubes (oviducts) lie on either side of the uterus in the upper margin (mesosalpinx) of the broad ligament. Each tube is divided into 4 parts. From lateral to medial, the parts are as follows:
  • The fimbriated end (infundibulum) is a bugle-shaped extremity with a fimbriated ostium that overlies the ovary, to which an elongated appendage (the fimbria ovarica) adheres.
  • The ampulla is wide, thin-walled, and somewhat tortuous and is the largest portion of the tube, both in length and caliber.
  • The isthmus is a narrow, straight, thin-walled portion of the tube immediately adjacent to the uterus. The ampullaryisthmic junction is the site where the fertilized egg pauses in its transit to the endometrial cavity, waiting for the progesterone produced by the corpus luteum to create a favorable environment for implantation. The isthmic portion of the fallopian tube is the site for all sterilization procedures that depend on intra-abdominal tubal occlusion. When a segment of tube is removed, as in the Pomeroy or Uchida technique, the isthmus is the preferred site of excision because of the relative ease of reanastomosis should the procedure be reversed in the future.
  • In the intrauterine or intramural portion of the tube, the lumen narrows to approximately 1 mm or less as it pierces the uterine wall, terminating in the tubal ostium, which is located on the superolateral aspect of the uterine cavity.

Although the mesonephric (wolffian) ducts degenerate in females, duct remnants may be sites of cyst formation.

  • Epoophoron (homologous to the epididymis) - Constantly lies in the lateral portion of the mesosalpinx and mesovarium
  • Paroophoron (homologous to the paradidymis) - Variably lies more medially in the mesosalpinx
  • Hydatid cysts of Morgagni (homologous to the appendix of epididymis) - Represent the most cranial remnant of the mesonephric duct


Patient ambivalence regarding sterilization is an absolute contraindication. Even though surgically reversing the tubal occlusion at a later date or becoming pregnant through in vitro fertilization is technically feasible, the decision to proceed with sterilization should be considered permanent and irreversible. The cost and disability associated with tubal occlusion is miniscule compared with the expense and time involved in either tubal reanastomosis or assisted reproductive technologies. While the patient should make the request herself, be of sound mind, and not act under external duress; the physician should provide patients who have decided that their families are complete with information regarding the various sterilization options. Many patients may not be aware that a nonincisional, in-office, hysteroscopic method is available. If there is any doubt whatsoever, other long-term but not irreversible methods of contraception, such as the IUD, should be considered when not contraindicated.

Special legal and ethical criteria must be met in cases where the patient undergoing sterilization has a physical, psychological, or intellectual disability.

Any gynecologic malignancy or symptomatic gynecologic pathology (eg, pelvic relaxation, uterine tumors, ovarian tumors) in which a hysterectomy is indicated obviates the need for a tubal occlusion.

In the puerperium, defer sterilization if maternal or infant complications exist. While sterilizations performed in the immediate postpartum are accompanied by a high incidence of regret, even when both mother and baby are healthy, many physicians advocate performing all sterilizations as an interval procedure.

The laparoscopic approach is relatively contraindicated in patients with a diaphragmatic hernia (through the foramen of Morgagni). Limit the Trendelenburg position to 15°, limit intra-abdominal pressure to a maximum of 10 mm Hg, and perform the operation under endotracheal anesthesia.

The laparoscopic approach is also contraindicated in patients with severe cardiopulmonary disease or dysfunction. The pneumoperitoneum may compress the vena cava and azygous system and diminish cardiac return, leading to cardiac decompensation. The diaphragm may be splinted (thus reducing respiratory tidal flow) both by the weight of the intraabdominal

organs, which fall cephalad with the patient in the Trendelenburg position, and by the pneumoperitoneum. Absorption of gas from the pneumoperitoneum may further aggravate the build up of carbon dioxide. The resultant hypercarbia may cause cardiac arrhythmias.

Special consideration must be given to obese patients, who make up an increasingly large percentage of the population. The presence of morbid obesity and/or a history of multiple abdominal surgeries with adhesion formation takes the laparoscopic approach to sterilization out of the realm of elective, low-risk surgery. It would be difficult to justify the selection of a laparoscopic approach in such patients when lower-risk procedures are available.

A publication by the FDA reviewed the incidence of trocar injuries that were reported to the FDA. Between 1997 and 2002, 1300 trocar injuries and 30 deaths were reported, yielding a trocar-related injury rate of 3%. Not counting bowel injury from electrosurgery, wound infection, urinary tract infection, or anesthetic complications, with 300,000 laparoscopic sterilizations performed in the United States each year, that translates to a minimum of 9000 complications from laparoscopic sterilization each year.[4]

According to the United States Collaborative Review of Sterilization, the odds ratio of complications from general or regional anesthesia is approximately 3 times that of local anesthesia.

The hysteroscopic insertion of microinserts for tubal occlusion may be safely performed in a physician's office under local anesthesia. It does not carry the operative risks incident to laparoscopy such as injury to bowel, bladder, or major vessels caused by trocar insertion or energy sources. The hysteroscopic approach may be safely used in cases of morbid obesity, abdominal scarring, and pelvic adhesions that would otherwise impede the abdominal approach to the fallopian tube. The hysteroscopic microinsert is contraindicated in patients allergic to nickel or contrast media, patients with active PID, patients in whom only 1 microinsert may be inserted, pregnancy, suspected pregnancy, or within 6 weeks of delivery or pregnancy termination.

Contributor Information and Disclosures

Robert K Zurawin, MD Associate Professor, Chief, Section of Minimally Invasive Gynecologic Surgery, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Baylor College of Medicine

Robert K Zurawin, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, American Society for Reproductive Medicine, Association of Professors of Gynecology and Obstetrics, Central Association of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Society of Laparoendoscopic Surgeons, Texas Medical Association, AAGL, Harris County Medical Society, North American Society for Pediatric and Adolescent Gynecology

Disclosure: Received consulting fee from Ethicon for consulting; Received consulting fee from Bayer for consulting; Received consulting fee from Hologic for consulting.


Avi J Sklar, MD, FACOG, FACS, FRCSC Co-Chief, Division of Gynecology, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Santa Clara Valley Medical Center

Avi J Sklar, MD, FACOG, FACS, FRCSC is a member of the following medical societies: American Society for Colposcopy and Cervical Pathology, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, American College of Surgeons, Phi Beta Kappa, Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Specialty Editor Board

Francisco Talavera, PharmD, PhD Adjunct Assistant Professor, University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Pharmacy; Editor-in-Chief, Medscape Drug Reference

Disclosure: Received salary from Medscape for employment. for: Medscape.

Richard S Legro, MD Professor, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Division of Reproductive Endocrinology, Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine; Consulting Staff, Milton S Hershey Medical Center

Richard S Legro, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Society of Reproductive Surgeons, American Society for Reproductive Medicine, Endocrine Society, Phi Beta Kappa

Disclosure: Received honoraria from Korea National Institute of Health and National Institute of Health (Bethesda, MD) for speaking and teaching; Received honoraria from Greater Toronto Area Reproductive Medicine Society (Toronto, ON, CA) for speaking and teaching; Received honoraria from American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists (Washington, DC) for speaking and teaching; Received honoraria from National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Pediatric and Adolescent Gynecology Research Thi.

Chief Editor

Michel E Rivlin, MD Former Professor, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Mississippi School of Medicine

Michel E Rivlin, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, American Medical Association, Mississippi State Medical Association, Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh, Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Additional Contributors

Anthony Charles Sciscione, DO Professor, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Drexel University College of Medicine; Director, Maternal and Fetal Medicine, Christiana Care Health System; Director, Delaware Center for Maternal and Fetal Medicine

Anthony Charles Sciscione, DO is a member of the following medical societies: American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, American Medical Association

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

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Elevation of the fallopian tube through the incision.
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