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Appendicitis and female infertility

MAY 2009

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Question:

Is there any link between a severe ruptured appendix and later infertility?

Answer:

Pregnancy is the end result of many complex functions in both the male and female reproductive tracts. One critical step in the process is the egg and sperm meeting and joining together before being transported to the womb to develop. Open and healthy fallopian tubes are necessary for this to occur. The fallopian tubes can be damaged by prior pelvic inflammation, including inflammation caused by appendicitis.

Most women with a history of appendicitis do not become infertile, and treatment is available for women who have difficulty conceiving. If the tubes are kinked or blocked by scar tissue, surgery can restore the tubes. The surgery is often done through a laparoscope. If the tubes are severely damaged, in vitro fertilization (IVF) can be performed. In IVF, the egg and sperm are mixed outside the body and then placed in the uterus. This process bypasses the fallopian tubes.

Joan Bengtson, M.D.
Assistant professor of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Biology, Harvard Medical School
Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproduction, Brigham and Women's Hospital