A 100-year-old medical technique could help infertile couples achieve a successful pregnancy without the need for In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF), scientists claim.
The technique involves flushing the woman's fallopian tubes with an iodised poppy seed oil, according to researchers from the University of Adelaide in Australia.
Known as hysterosalpingography (HSG), the procedure is a dye test of the fallopian tubes conducted under X-ray.
The procedure was first carried out in 1917, and since the 1950s both water-based and oil-based solutions have been used.
Researchers compared the benefits of flushing the fallopian tubes with either an oil-based or water-based solution in 1,119 women.
"Over the past century, pregnancy rates among infertile women reportedly increased after their tubes had been flushed with either water or oil during this X-ray procedure," said project leader Professor Ben Mol, from the University of Adelaide.
"Until now, it has been unclear whether the type of solution used in the procedure was influencing the change in fertility," said Mol.
"Our results have been even more exciting than we could have predicted, helping to confirm that an age-old medical technique still has an important place in modern medicine," he said.
Almost 40 per cent of infertile women in the oil group and 29 per cent of infertile women in the water group achieved successful pregnancies within six months of the technique being performed.
The oil-based product was an iodised solution of fatty acids from poppy seeds currently available in 47 countries around the world.
"The rates of successful pregnancy were significantly higher in the oil-based group, and after only one treatment," said Mol.
"This is an important outcome for women who would have had no other course of action other than to seek IVF treatment. It offers new hope to infertile couples," he said.
It was long believed that testing a woman's fallopian tubes could have fertility benefits through 'flushing out' the kind of debris that hinders fertility, researchers said.
However, why this technique benefits fertility is still not well understood.
"Considering the technique has been used for 100 years without any known side-effects, we believe it is a viable treatment for infertility prior to couples seeking IVF," Mol said.
"Not only is there a known benefit, but this flushing procedure is also a fraction of the cost of one cycle of IVF," he said.
"Considering that 40 per cent of women in the oil-based group achieved a successful pregnancy, that's 40 per cent of couples who could avoid having to go through the huge costs and emotions associated with IVF treatment," he added.
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