Chapter 43
Laparoscopic Sterilization: Clinical Aspects
Jacques-E. Rioux and A. Albert Yuzpe
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Jacques-E. Rioux, MD, MPH
Professor, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Laval University, Ste-Foy, Quebec, Canada (Vol 6, Chaps 43, 64)

A. Albert Yuzpe, MD, MSc, FRCS(C)
Professor Emeritus, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, The University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario; Co-Director, Genesis Fertility Centre, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada (Vol 6, Chap 43, 64)



More than 191 million couples worldwide have opted for sterilization as their method of permanent contraception.1 Since the introduction of laparoscopic tubal sterilization, women have had access to safe, effective, and dependable methods of tubal sterilization. In well-trained hands, laparoscopic tubal sterilization may be performed under either general or local anesthesia. In the latter case, the procedure is virtually comparable to a vasectomy with respect to ease of performance, safety, and efficacy. Thus, the choice is now available for a couple in which either the woman or her partner may choose equally regarding which will elect to undergo the sterilization procedure.

At the same time, as much as we stress the relatively innocuous nature of laparoscopic sterilization, we also stress the seriousness of the decision to undergo sterilization, since for either partner the procedure should be considered a permanent and irreversible one.

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Any woman requesting sterilization should be given the opportunity to opt for the procedure, provided that she has been adequately counseled and informed preoperatively. She should not, under any circumstances, be coerced or pressured in any way into making such a significant and permanent decision. Of her own accord, she must be convinced and comfortable with her decision. The role of the physician or counselor is, therefore, to ascertain the following:

  1. Is the patient well informed in all aspects of the procedure, including the risks and benefits?
  2. Is she making the request and formulating her decision voluntarily and rationally?
  3. Is the consent form complete and comprehensive, yet easy to understand?
  4. Does she understand the necessity for continued contraception while awaiting her surgery, and is she willing to maintain a menstrual cycle diary postoperatively in case of procedure failure?
  5. Does she understand that permanent sterility cannot be guaranteed after any sterilization procedure, and that failures have been reported even up to 10 years after the surgery? The patient must be apprised of the failure rates for each method.
  6. Does she understand that all currently employed female sterilization methods are, for all intents and purposes, irreversible. The physician should always keep in mind, however, the relative possibility of reversibility. The procedure that produces the least amount of tissue disruption, and thus lends itself to the greatest degree of reversibility without sacrificing efficacy, should be chosen.
  7. Are her reasons for choosing a sterilization procedure reasonable? Too often, sterilization is selected at a time when the woman is less likely to make a rational decision (e.g. after a difficult pregnancy, labor, or delivery, or when she is suffering from the side effects of various other forms of contraception).
  8. Is there any underlying gynecologic pathology that would preclude the physician from recommending hysterectomy as a choice for managing both a gynecologic problem as well as the contraceptive requirements? It is essential to stress the concept that tubal sterilization induces sterility but is not a cure for any other gynecologic problems.

A woman's decision to undergo a sterilization procedure should be based on a number of factors irrespective of age and parity. Age should not be a limiting factor in the decision-making process. The use of artificial arithmetic guidelines (age/parity formula) is an obsolete practice. Nulliparity should not necessarily be considered a contraindication to sterilization, because motivation and other patient needs do not parallel the age and parity of the candidate. It is simply not borne out statistically that the younger the woman at the time of sterilization, the greater the chance she will change her mind or regret the procedure. In fact, we have found that the nulliparous woman, regardless of age, who opts for sterilization is often more motivated toward child-free living than her parous counterparts of similar age.

Sterilization of patients with mental disabilities is a highly volatile and controversial subject. It is not our role to promote or condemn such procedures in this group of women. Suffice it to say that if sterilization is elected, the physician should have the support and consent of the patient's family and a psychiatrist (if the patient herself is incapable of making such a decision and of signing an informed consent). There are other methods of contraception that provide not only highly effective contraception, but in the majority of cases, also control of menstrual flow and even inducement of long-term amenorrhea (medroxyprogesterone acetate “Depo-Provera”). Since the widespread availability of medical therapies, the use of hysterectomy to achieve permanent contraception and to control abnormal menses has become an extremely rare practice.

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Laparoscopic sterilization as an outpatient procedure may be performed (1) concomitantly with a pregnancy termination or uterine evacuation for spontaneous abortion, (2) in the immediate postpartum period, or (3) as an interval procedure (most common).2 When the patient is in good health and her psychological status is stable (i.e., she is not experiencing any stressful situation), the decision-making process can be considered a rational one. In some cases, a waiting period of 30 days is mandatory between consultation and performance of a sterilization procedure, to ensure that the woman has had adequate time to reconsider her decision.

The proper consent forms must be explained and signed. On the day of surgery, the patient is offered a final opportunity to change her mind.

Postpartum sterilization is reasonable, provided the discussion and the decision to undergo the procedure was made before delivery.3 Indeed, during labor or emergency cesarean section, it is not deemed appropriate for health-care providers to initiate discussion regarding elective puerperal sterilization. Any mention of this subject should have been made and documented in the patient's chart during her pregnancy. If the patient, however, initiates the discussion and the entire consent process during early labor, one might consider that the patient is still capable of making an informed and valid consent to undergo sterilization.

The major advantage of postpartum sterilization is the fact that the woman is already hospitalized. Conversely, the disadvantage is that the frequently encountered state of postpartum depression may produce increased stress that, when combined with the sterilization procedure, can result in deeper depression. Furthermore, the fate of the newborn is not certain in the early neonatal period. Statistically, regret is more frequent when the decision to undergo sterilization has been made immediately postpartum.

Lastly, any intra-abdominal surgical procedure may present an occasion for concomitant tubal sterilization. For example, a woman undergoing laparotomy, for management of an ectopic pregnancy or some nongynecologic surgical procedure such as cholecystectomy, may undergo concomitant sterilization.

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The equipment, procedures, and hazards of laparoscopic sterilization have been dealt with elsewhere. The following is a review of the various approaches to tubal occlusion, along with a discussion of their specific advantages and disadvantages. These techniques are presented in chronologic order of their introduction in the medical literature.



Although gynecologic laparoscopy was flourishing in Europe (only gastroenterologists were using the technique in North America), it was Anderson,4 an American, who in 1937 proposed laparoscopic electrocoagulation of the fallopian tubes to achieve female sterilization. However, it is Palmer5 of France who is credited with describing the modern technique of laparoscopic tubal electrocoagulation in 1962. The first instrument employed for this purpose was the Palmer biopsy forceps, because it was already adapted for electrosurgical capabilities. Powerful, grounded, high-voltage generators producing unipolar electric current were employed. Under such circumstances, the electrical energy is concentrated at the site where the fallopian tube is grasped by the jaws of the forceps. Once current is applied, it then has to travel through the patient's body, from whence it exits and is collected by a ground plate or return electrode to complete the electrical circuit. The original technique involved electrocoagulation of the tubal isthmus, followed by tubal transection and recoagulation of the cut edges (Fig. 1).6

Fig. 1. Electrocoagulation. Unipolar coagulation followed by transection to ensure complete coagulation. When necessary, the cut ends are grasped and recoagulated.

Some authors subsequently indicated that coagulation alone without tubal transection is equally effective, provided the surgeon is experienced and confident that the coagulation is complete (Fig. 2).7 Others recommended that a specimen of the tube be excised for pathologic confirmation.8 This step appears to have evolved as much for medicolegal reasons as for scientific ones. Unfortunately, the frequently charred tissue specimen cannot be identified as originating from the fallopian tube, thus defeating the primary purpose of the biopsy (Fig. 3). With this in mind, Soderstrom and Smith described a technique whereby a loop of tube could be passed through an electrified polyp snare.9 As the snare is squeezed tightly, current is applied; a loop of tube is mechanically excised and the tissue bed concomitantly coagulated. The excised segment, structurally unaltered, can then be evaluated pathologically as well as bacteriologically if indicated (Fig. 4). This method is technically complex and requires the use of an operating laparoscope as well as a second suprapubic puncture.

Fig. 2. Electrocoagulation. Unipolar coagulation without tubal transection is equally effective if the coagulation is adequate.

Fig. 3. Electrocoagulation. Unipolar coagulation followed by excisional biopsy for pathologic identification.

Fig. 4. Electrocoagulation. In partial salpingectomy a unipolar current is used to excise a loop of tube by using a polyp snare.

All of the laparoscopic procedures described up to this point employ the two-puncture technique (i.e., a viewing laparoscope introduced at the umbilicus, and an operating instrument introduced through a second, suprapubic puncture in the midline). In 1972, Wheeless10 adapted this method to the operating laparoscope, thus obviating the need for a second puncture. The one-puncture technique appears to be particularly suitable for use in conjunction with local anesthesia and requires few instruments with less surgical assistance.

Whether one or two punctures are employed, and regardless of the coagulation technique used (i.e., coagulation only, coagulation combined with tubal transection, or resection), it was discovered that the unipolar electrical system was associated with some inherent dangers. As early as 1973, Thompson and Wheeless11 reported 11 cases of bowel burns secondary to accidental electrical injury during the process of tubal electrocoagulation. Other reports followed, further emphasizing the fact that a potentially dangerous situation existed with the use of unipolar current.12 There generally was no rational explanation for such accidents and, as a consequence, it was difficult if not impossible to avoid them. We now know that some cases were simply secondary to faulty technique, but most were related to the inherent danger associated with high-voltage, grounded generators. Some of these units, when set in the coagulation mode, were capable of producing thousands of volts and hundreds of amperes of current. As the tubal tissue was being dehydrated, the tissue resistance increased, and the generator produced more current in an attempt to overcome this resistance. Today, more sophisticated generators are available; these are generally of solid-state construction, producing low-voltage, high-frequency current; they are not grounded, but rather isolated from ground. Although these have turned out to be much safer, some bowel burns unfortunately still occur.

Another and most logical theory to account for the bowel burns when a single puncture technique was employed is the role played by capacitative induced current. As we have seen, Wheeless popularized the use of the operating laparoscope for sterilization. If one adds to that the appearance of fiberglass sheathes through which the laparoscope is passed, one has all of the elements necessary to create an electrical capacitor. When high-frequency current is passed through the coagulating instrument within the operating channel of the laparoscope, up to 50% of the current is transferred or leaks to the laparoscope itself, despite the fact that the instrument is insulated. If a metal sheath is used rather than an insulating or fiberglass sheath, this current is dispersed within the abdominal wall, which is a much larger surface, and thus will cause no harm. However, if the fiberglass sheath or a metal sheath surrounded by a plastic anchor is used, the current will not be allowed to leak out and will instead charge the laparoscope, which now becomes a capacitor. This current can be discharged to a loop of bowel or other structure, should it come into contact with the laparoscope during the procedure without the knowledge of the operator.


In 1973, after scattered reports of electrosurgical injury in the medial literature, Rioux and Cloutier13 devised the bipolar technique for tubal electrocoagulation. This method differed from the conventional unipolar system in that the operating forceps carried both the active and the return electrode.14

By completely isolating the two jaws of the forceps from one another, high-frequency current can be passed through one jaw and retrieved and returned to the generator through the other. The current thus passes selectively through the tissue grasped between the jaws of the forceps. Although high-frequency current is employed, it is required to travel only a short distance: that is, the thickness of the tube that is grasped within the jaws (1 to 2 mm). The bipolar procedure appears to be safer than the unipolar system, since the dangers of sparking are eliminated. Capacitative current is not produced because of a “canceling out” of the electric waves (i.e. the current enters and exits via the same instrument). Inadvertent electrosurgical injury to the bowel with bipolar forceps can, therefore, only occur if the bowel is grasped directly with the forceps. If such a situation were to occur, the complication would obviously be a result of surgical error as opposed to instrument failure. A further advantage of bipolar electrocoagulation is that the resulting burn is discrete and localized, selectively destroying only the tube that is in the grasp of the forceps jaws, leaving the mesosalpinx unaffected (Fig. 5).

Fig. 5. Electrocoagulation. Bipolar coagulation is characterized by a discrete or localized burn; the tube is selectively destroyed, sparing the mesosalpinx from electrical injury.

At this point, a word of caution is essential: Bipolar instruments should be employed only with compatible electrosurgical units as recommended by the manufacturers, or with a generator possessing both limited output and isolated circuitry.

The complication rate for laparoscopy is directly proportional to the experience of the operator and his or her attention to the appropriate safety guidelines. Soderstrom and Butler15 achieved a significant reduction in the complication rate, from 13% to 3% within 1 year, after the introduction and implementation of an organized operative protocol. Electrosurgical complications have become considerably less frequent since the advent of the bipolar technique, as well as with the use of low-voltage, high-frequency generators. Furthermore, education and familiarization of physicians and operating-room personnel with electrosurgical instruments have resulted in fewer complications. Of further interest is the fact that Soderstrom and Butler15 demonstrated that many suspected bowel burns were actually the result of sharp trocar injuries, rather than electrical injuries.


The technique of thermocoagulation originated in Germany in the 1970s. Frangenheim16 and Semm17 devised instruments that literally “cook” the fallopian tube by means of a small element heated by electric current (Fig. 6).

Fig. 6. Thermocoagulation. A small element heated by low-voltage electric current literally cooks the tube.

The advantage of this technique is that the current is markedly reduced from the exit potential of the standard electrical wall outlet and is therefore much safer. The apparatus employed for this thermocoagulation procedure requires no more than 4 or 5 V to produce the desired effect. With some of the sophisticated and automated thermocoagulation generators, the desired temperature and duration of current application may be preselected. Other generators provide an audible signal that varies according to the temperature of the heating element, indicating whether the instrument is in the heating or cooling cycle. Thermocoagulation now appears to be less dangerous than electrocoagulation; however, data regarding the efficacy of thermocoagulation are not yet available.


The Waters Instrument Company18 devised another approach that employs the heating principle to produce coagulation as well as transection of the tube. This apparatus possesses a small, metallic hook that is heated by electric current produced in a battery-operated power source. The tube is grasped with the hook and pulled into an insulated outer sheath. The tube is coagulated and transected with hemostasis achieved by cauterization. Tissue destruction with this technique is minimal, but because sectioned ends of the tube remain in close proximity, recanalization may theoretically occur more easily than with some of the other techniques described (Fig. 7). Unfortunately, data for evaluating the true failure rate of this method are not available.

Fig. 7. Electrocautery. A small metallic hook is heated to the “red-hot” stage, with current produced by a battery. The tube is sectioned and hemostasis achieved by cauterization.

Mechanical Techniques


Two nonelectrical (mechanical) laparoscopic tubal occlusive techniques have become popular in the past few years. Hulka and colleagues19 developed the spring-loaded clip. Aware of the high failure rate associated with the use of a previously developed tantalum clip (up to 27% according to Wheeless20), yet still fascinated by the simplicity of the concept, Hulka and associates spent years developing a clip of Lexan (Richard Wolf Instrument Corp., Rosemont, IL) plastic jaws held in place by a gold-plated stainless steel spring, which is thought to reduce peritoneal reaction. The basic principle involved in this technique is that the plastic jaws with interlocking teeth leave no spaces. The maximal pressure on the tube is applied over a period of time, thus lessening the acute crushing effect that could result in fistula formation (Fig. 8). This plastic clip, as opposed to the tantalum clip, supposedly leaves no room for recanalization.

Fig. 8. The Hulka clip, made of Lexan plastic, is held in the closed position over the tube by means of a stainless steel spring. The Filshie clip, made of titanium, would have almost the same appearance.

The original clip applicator was subsequently adapted to the operating laparoscope for single-puncture application. Later, Lieberman and co-workers,21 favoring the two-puncture technique, devised an appropriate applicator.

Another clip, devised by Filshie and colleagues22 and introduced into the United States in 1997 (more than 10 years after its introduction into Canada and many other countries), is made up of titanium jaws lined with silicone rubber. Locking of the device is achieved by a flattening effect of the upper jaw, which locks into the lower hooked jaw. This locking occurs through the mesosalpinx and is easily visualized at the time of application and enclosure of the clip. This confirms that the entire diameter of the tube has been included within the jaws. Visualization of the hooked end of the lower jaw can actually be confirmed before locking. When locked in place, the clip leaves no space at all between the jaws, thus achieving complete tubal occlusion. Compared to the Hulka clip, the Filshie clip appears to be easier to position properly before closure. In addition, because of its length, the Filshie clip can be placed on almost any fallopian tube, regardless of thickness or shape, including postpartum tubes.


The Falope ring, devised by Yoon and King,23 is ingeniously simple. A loop of tube is drawn into the central hollow cylinder of the ring applicator forceps (single- or double-puncture technique) by gentle squeezing of the applicator handle. The loaded Silastic band is then forced down over the loop of tube by the forward action of an outer cylinder by a further squeezing of the applicator handle. This results in the release of the band from the applicator onto the loop of tube, thus achieving tubal occlusion. The portion of the tube encircled by the ring gradually becomes sclerosed, and the proximal and distal segments of tube become occluded (Fig. 9).

Fig. 9. The Falope ring is made of Silastic (Cabot Medical Corp., Langhorne, PA). The stretched band is forced down over a loop of tube that becomes sclerosed.

When the tubes are slender and lie free (i.e., are not involved in an adhesive or old inflammatory process), they are easily drawn up within the inner cylinder. When a thick or edematous tube is encountered, however, a slow “milking up” of the tube by means of a to-and-fro motion of the applicator handles is usually necessary in order to draw the tube into the hollow central cylinder. In doing so, the serosa may be damaged, or the tube may be totally transected (“click sign” of Levinson), thus increasing the risk of fistula formation, as with the Madlener technique. In addition, there is also the potential for bleeding from the transected tube.

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Should one be familiar with and have the capacity to perform more than one technique? Is it possible to tailor the sterilization technique to the individual patient? Is any one sterilization technique better suited for outpatient surgery? Which single technique is most universally applicable?

It is difficult, if not impossible, to answer these questions definitively. It is important, however, to have a backup form of sterilization for any routine technique that is chosen, in the event of equipment failure.

We believe the two-puncture approach is the most versatile: (1) it allows the surgeon to choose any of the previously described techniques; and (2) it permits the best working angle, best visibility, and best maneuverability of instruments. Our approach is as follows: After we obtain an adequate pneumoperitoneum, we introduce a small, 180° forward optic laparoscope. After a short, but complete, observation of the entire abdominal cavity, we introduce the second trocar under direct vision, thus eliminating a second blind abdominal puncture. We make sure a complete variety of instruments is available, and are thus able to chose the method that appears best suited for the patient or the clinical situation. For example, the decision to use the Falope ring may have been reached preoperatively during discussions between the patient and surgeon. However, exploration may reveal the presence of an edematous fallopian tube, with or without some degree of subclinical inflammation, precluding the use of the ring. Under such circumstances, one would require the backup of an alternate technique, such as electrocoagulation or a clip, to achieve the sterilization. In contrast, with the one-puncture technique, the operator may be restricted to a technique that is applicable to the operating laparoscope.

If one has access to all techniques, should the technique be tailored to the individual? We believe that, because we are in an era in which consideration of reversibility is so important, sterilization methods resulting in the least tissue destruction should be chosen. Moreover, as will be discussed later, if sterilization plays any role in the production of dysfunctional uterine bleeding, it would be logical to assume that the method resulting in the least change in the anatomic integrity of the internal genital organs, especially blood supply, is preferable.

Therefore, to preserve a relatively high rate of reversibility, and to destroy the least amount of tissue, the clip appears to be ideal because it destroys only 3 mm of tubal tissue and little, if any, of the blood supply. We prefer the Filshie clip because of its ease of application and apparent improved efficacy. The Falope ring, which destroys approximately 2.6 cm of fallopian tube and involves only a small amount of its vascularity, should be considered as the next least destructive method. Electrocoagulation destroys the largest amount of tubal tissue, even more than is apparent at the time of the procedure. This is more pronounced when unipolar current is employed, as opposed to bipolar. Thus, electrosurgical methods, if employed at all, should be reserved for older women whose future fertility is not desired under any circumstance.

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Any of the occlusive techniques discussed can be performed using either local or general anesthesia. In practice, however, local anesthesia is combined with an intravenous injection of an analgesic and/or neuroleptic (e.g., meperidine, fentanyl, droperidol) to reduce the patient's level of pain and anxiety.

It appears that the mechanical methods of tubal occlusion are better suited to local anesthesia, if for no other reason than the fact that the procedure may be performed more quickly.

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New information has recently been published regarding the long-term failure rates associated with the various tubal occlusive techniques. Much to the surprise of many clinicians, the early reported failure rates (1- to 5-year follow-up) were only part of the overall failure picture. Failures were still being reported up to 10 years after the initial procedure. Definite differences in long-term failure rates have been demonstrated among methods and are presented in Table 1.24,25,26

TABLE 1 Probabilities of Pregnancy



Ectopic Rate



AAGL Survey25

Crest Study24(per 1000) (10 years)



Postpartum Pomeroy












 Falope ring



 Hulka clip



Family Health International Study26(per 1000) (2 years)




 Filshie clip



The risk of failure appears to be greatest among women sterilized before age 30. Beyond age 35, no statistically significant difference was noted among methods. The highest failure rate was reported for women sterilized before the age of 30 with bipolar electrocoagulation or the spring-loaded clip. Ten-year data are currently being compiled for the Filshie clip, but are not yet available.

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The more experienced and skillful the surgeon is with a particular technique, the lower the complication rate. Most experienced laparoscopists favor a specific technique and therefore become more proficient in it compared to the other techniques. As a result, the data are biased regarding complication rates, and it is impossible to apply surgeon-specific data to all physicians.

The unipolar electrocoagulation method is probably the most efficient method of laparoscopic sterilization to perform, because the tube is well grasped by the electrocoagulating forceps. The tube can then be lifted and mobilized to ensure that it is not in close proximity to any surrounding structures while the current is being applied. A more than adequate burn can be obtained as well with a single, properly placed grasp, as long as the current is applied for an adequate length of time. Unfortunately, as discussed earlier, this technique is also the most dangerous method. Even if we were to agree that the newer, low-voltage, high-frequency isolated generators are safer, bowel burns (the most common complication directly associated with this method) still occur. If such a complication is recognized at the time of the procedure, immediate laparotomy should be undertaken and segmental resection of the bowel at the site of the injury should be performed. It is not sufficient to oversew the burned area, since electrical burns notoriously destroy more tissue than is actually evident.

If the burned area is not recognized at the time of the surgery, the patient generally will present emergently within 2 to 8 days postoperatively with signs and symptoms of peritonitis. For this reason, every patient should be instructed to contact her physician if excessive pain or fever occurs 48 hours or more postoperatively. In some cases, if another physician is consulted in the face of such signs and symptoms, he or she may not immediately relate them to the possibility of a bowel burn, with its associated fecal peritonitis (secondary to the perforation); thus, the morbidity rate is increased. The defect in such cases is usually located in the terminal ileum, approximately 20 to 37.5 cm from the cecum. If the surgeon is unaware of the electrical nature of the defect and simply oversews it, there is often a secondary breakdown of the site and recurrent peritonitis, with an even greater risk of morbidity and mortality. If adequate steps are undertaken initially, and segmental resection is performed, healing generally occurs with minimal morbidity to the patient.

The problem with bipolar electrocoagulation is that none of the commonly available forceps allows for as good a grasp of the fallopian tube as does the unipolar forceps. This occurs because the jaws of the bipolar forceps cannot, by virtue of their construction, touch each other. The tube can then slip out of the jaws, making it more difficult to elevate the tube and to mobilize it away from surrounding structures. However, the bipolar technique is so much safer that this inconvenience is still considered to be a minor one.

Based on statistical evidence, we believe that it is unnecessary to transect the tube after adequate electrocoagulation as long as adequate tubal destruction is achieved.

What constitutes adequate electrocoagulation? Only experience enables the surgeon to formulate this judgment. When employing the technique, the surgeon should first transect the tube to see whether any uncoagulated tissue is present; if it is, recoagulation of both ends of the tube is necessary. Practice employing extirpated fallopian tubes followed by serial sectioning would be helpful and would permit the surgeon to assess the adequacy of the coagulation, as well as the amount of current necessary to achieve occlusion and the duration of the current application.

A final word of caution: It is not necessary to electrocoagulate the entire tube to achieve foolproof occlusion. We believe that an adequate burn of 2 to 3 cm in the isthmic portion of the tube is sufficient to achieve permanent sterility.

The thermocoagulation technique appears to be very safe. The use of an electric current that does not exceed 5 to 6 V makes it electrically safe. Moreover, the heat generated within the forceps is contained and does not create the hazards associated with electrocoagulation. Furthermore, should the forceps come into contact with the bowel while hot, the resulting burn would be thermal and superficial as opposed to electrical and deep. Such a burn usually does not require repair and generally heals spontaneously.

The major problem in this situation is the length of the “cooking” cycle and the associated sticking of the tissue to the instrument. Indeed, to achieve proper thermocoagulation with this small heating element, one must maintain a grasp on the tube for 45 to 60 seconds with each application. Once the forceps are open, the tissue tends to stick to the warming plate, making it difficult to release the tissue. Because of these disadvantages, this technique has not become popular in North America.

Electrocautery, as performed by the instrument produced by the Waters Instrument Company, is an appealing technique. The electric current generated by battery is of extremely low voltage and therefore quite safe. The heating hook is protected by a shield during the heating phase of the procedure, thereby minimizing injury to other tissues. It is not clear to us why this technique has not enjoyed greater popularity in North America, except for the possibility that the burn is so limited that the severed ends of the tube remain in close proximity, increasing the possibility of recanalization or spontaneous reanastomosis.

There is no replacement for expertise in applying clips properly, an absolute necessity for obtaining low failure rates. The major problem encountered in developing a sound technique for the Hulka clip application is the difficulty in enclosing the entire tube well within the jaws of the clip to ensure complete tubal occlusion. Because the tube is quite mobile, this can be difficult at times, but once the technique of application is mastered, it becomes quite simple. To achieve predictable occlusion, the clip should be applied at right angles to the fallopian tubes. Because these clips contain small teeth in both jaws, care must be taken to avoid tearing of tubal serosa or the mesosalpinx during clip application. With the development of the second-puncture clip applicator, application of the clip has become simpler; with this technique, manipulation of the clip applicator is independent of movements of the telescope. The Filshie clip is easier to apply than the Hulka clip because it is longer, and because of the grasping effect of the upper jaw. We personally have never encountered a situation where the Filshie clips could not be applied during an interval sterilization procedure. Clips should be applied at the isthmic portion of the tube, 1 to 2 cm distal to the cornua, to permit a future isthmic-isthmic reanastomosis, should the need to restore fertility arise.

The Falope ring is a simple and efficient technique considered by some to be the simplest when the tubes are thin and mobile. In the presence of adhesions or tubal edema, however, it may be impossible to elevate a knuckle of tube adequately to carry out the procedure without difficulty. Furthermore, when the tube is large or edematous, it may be virtually impossible to pull the tubal knuckle into the inner sheath of the instrument. Overzealous attempts at this step may result in tubal transection. Should such a transection inadvertently occur, the complication may be managed in one of two ways. The first method is to apply separate rings to each of the cut ends of the fallopian tube to achieve both hemostasis and tubal occlusion. A second alternative is to introduce a 5-mm reducing sheath into either the second-puncture sheath or the operating channel of the one-puncture instrument and to introduce a 5-mm bipolar electrocoagulating forceps. The cut ends of the fallopian tube and, if necessary, the mesosalpinx (if actively bleeding) can then be electrocoagulated again for the purpose of both hemostasis and tubal occlusion.

The authors consider it highly advisable for all surgeons who employ the Falope ring technique to have electrocoagulation potential available in the operating theater and a 5-mm reducing sheath to reduce the diameter of the 8-mm Falope ring sheath to accommodate an electrocoagulating instrument.

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Very few long-term complications result from laparoscopic sterilization. As a matter of fact, these complications are so infrequent that we found it necessary to review the literature to come up with a complete list.


Postoperative pain is usually limited to the immediate postoperative period (6 to 48 hours). With electrocoagulation, it appears that nerve endings in the fallopian tube are destroyed, and very little, if any, postoperative pain occurs secondary to the electrocoagulation itself. Because of their crushing effect, the mechanical occlusive techniques (Falope ring and clips) tend to produce a crampy type of lower abdominal pain, which may last up to 48 hours. Whether or not this is related to the release of prostaglandins due to tissue ischemia and necrosis is still unproven. In any case, a minor form of analgesic, either a prostaglandin synthetase inhibitor or one containing 5 to 30 mg of codeine, may be administered as needed.

When local anesthesia is given along with mechanical occlusive techniques, a local anesthetic agent (e.g., bupivacaine) may be applied directly to the tube before application of the ring or clip. This theoretically reduces the resultant pain from the occlusive procedure.27 It is difficult to substantiate any long-term relationship between laparoscopic tubal sterilization and pelvic pain.

Wound Infection

When laparoscopic sterilization is performed in an operating theater under sterile conditions, wound infection is rarely a problem. Occasionally, however, superficial wound infection of the upper or lower abdominal punctures can occur and, if present, generally can be managed easily by means of hot compresses without the concomitant use of antibiotics.

Peritoneal Infection

Septic peritonitis associated with laparoscopy is rare. We have never personally experienced this complication.


Hernias at the site of the umbilical or lower abdominal puncture have been reported. Ideally, the best management of such problems is to prevent them. Use of the Z insertion technique theoretically prevents such complications. In addition, the use of the smallest instrument applicable to the procedure is preferable. Careful removal of the upper and lower puncture sheaths so that no omental tissue is entrapped is also important.

Dysfunctional Uterine Bleeding

Numerous physicians have suggested, on the basis of clinical impression, that a long-term sequela of tubal sterilization is the development of dysfunctional uterine bleeding. No prospective, statistical data are available to suggest that the development of this syndrome is in fact a recognized entity.

Several factors must be considered. A major one is the fact that many women electing to undergo tubal sterilization have used some form of contraception, the most popular of which is the oral contraceptive, for varying numbers of years before the sterilization procedure. Considering that oral contraceptives are classically associated with reduction in menstrual flow, one might well expect an increase in the amount of bleeding associated with discontinuation of the medication after sterilization. Conversely, many women who have used an intrauterine device before sterilization report experiencing a reduction in menstrual flow after the sterilization procedure. Some physicians believe that there is no such entity as poststerilization dysfunctional uterine bleeding.28

Again, we must stress the necessity of performing a full and accurate history and physical examination during the original consultation to ascertain whether there is any underlying gynecologic pathology, particularly abnormal uterine bleeding, or some condition predisposing to it, that would militate against sterilization and direct the physician in favor of hysterectomy as a definitive management of both problems. If such situations are overlooked, then this factor alone could potentially contribute to a false impression of an increase in poststerilization dysfunctional uterine bleeding. It is most distressing to encounter a patient, recently sterilized, who is complaining of menorrhagia or menometrorrhagia only to discover that she had suffered from the problem before her tubal sterilization.

The only conclusive data supporting a cause-and-effect relationship between tubal sterilization and dysfunctional uterine bleeding are those of Radwanska and co-workers,29 who reported some reduction in the postovulatory pregnanediol levels of women who were sterilized and who subsequently desired reanastomosis of their fallopian tubes, as compared with a control group. This has yet to be confirmed by other investigators.

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Laparoscopic sterilization has become the most popular method of interval female sterilization in North America. This procedure has the advantage of providing a visual survey of the upper abdomen and entire pelvic cavity, as well as much of the superficial bowel content. There are very few, if any, situations in which laparoscopy is impossible to perform. It is a sophisticated procedure with an array of highly technical and, in some cases, expensive instruments. Therefore, it seems ideally suited for the more developed countries. In lesser developed nations, however, the relative ease of the procedure and the lack of disfigurement may also act as motivating factors. For a country with a well-established family-planning infrastructure and motivated, skillful surgeons, the introduction of female laparoscopic sterilization can provide the necessary impetus to foster voluntary sterilization.

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2. Rioux JE, Yuzpe AA: Evaluation of female sterilization procedures. Curr Probl Obstet Gynecol 11(9): 1979

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4. Anderson ET: Peritoneoscopy. Am J Surg 35: 136, 1937

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6. Steptoe PC: Laparoscopy in Gynaecology. Edinburgh, E & S Livingstone, 1967

7. Yuzpe AA, Rioux JE, Loffer FD et al: Laparoscopic tubal sterilization by the “burn only” technique. Obstet Gynecol 49: 106, 1977

8. Wheeless CR Jr, Thompson BH: Laparoscopic sterilization: Review of 3,600 cases. Obstet Gynecol 42: 751, 1973

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11. Thompson BH, Wheeless CR Jr: Gastrointestinal complications of laparoscopy sterilization. Obstet Gynecol 41: 669, 1973

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13. Rioux JE, Cloutier D: Laparoscopic tubal sterilization: Sparking and its control. Vie Med Can Franç 2: 760, 1973

14. Rioux JE, Cloutier D: A new bipolar instrument for laparoscopic tubal sterilization. Am J Obstet Gynecol 119: 737, 1974

15. Soderstrom RM, Butler JC: A critical evaluation of complications in laparoscopy. J Reprod Med 10: 245, 1973

16. Frangenheim HJ: Die laparoskopie in der gynäkologie, chirugie und pädiatrie. Stuttgart, Georg Thieme Verlag, 1977

17. Semm K: Tubal sterilization finally with cauterization or temporarily with ligation via pelvoscopy. In Phillips JM (ed): Gynaecological Laparoscopy: Principles and Techniques. New York, Stratton Intercontinental Book, 1974

18. Garite TJ, Gunning JE: Enter the thermal cautery. Contemp Obstet Gynecol 11: 99, 1978

19. Hulka JF, Fishburne JI, Mercer JP et al: Laparoscopic sterilization with a spring-clip: A report of the first fifty cases. Am J Obstet Gynecol 116: 715, 1973

20. Wheeless CR Jr: Where we've been, what we've tried and where we are going in the use of laparoscope in female sterilization. In Sciarra JJ, Droegemueller W, Speidel JJ (eds): Advances in Female Sterilization Technology. Hagerstown, MD, Harper & Row, 1976

21. Lieberman BA, Gordon AG, Bostock JF et al: Laparoscopic sterilization with spring-loaded clips: Double puncture technique. J Reprod Med 18: 241, 1977

22. Filshie GM, Casey D, Pogmore JR et al: The titanium/silicone rubber clip for female sterilization. Br J Obstet Gynaecol 88: 655, 1981

23. Yoon IB, King TM: A preliminary and intermediate report on a new laparoscopic tubal ring procedure. J Reprod Med 15: 54, 1975

24. Peterson HB, Xia Z, Hugues JM et al: The risk of pregnancy after tubal sterilization: Findings from the U.S. Collaborative Review of Sterilization. Am J Obstet Gynecol 174: 1161, 1996

25. Hulka JF, Phillips JM, Peterson HB, Surrey MW: Laparoscopic sterilization: American Association of Gynecologic Laparoscopists' 1993 membership survey. J Am Assoc Gynecol Laparosc 2: 137, 1995

26. Unpublished data collected by Family Health International and submitted to the Food and Drug Administration for approval of the Filshie clip, 1996

27. Tool AL, Kammerer-Doak DN, Nguyen CM et al: Postoperative pain relief following laparoscopic tubal sterilization with Silastic bands. Obstet Gynecol 90: 731, 1997

28. Rioux JE: Uterine bleeding following tubal occlusion in gynecology. In Keith LG, Kent DR, Berger GS et al (eds): The Safety of Fertility Control, Chap 29, pp 267–280. New York, Springer, 1980

29. Radwanska E, Berger GS, Hammond J: Luteal deficiency among women with normal menstrual cycles requesting reversal of tubal sterilization. Obstet Gynecol 54: 189, 1979

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