Hysterosalpingography (HSG, Dye) Test

11 Apr

I wish I had an image of my own HSG test to show you, but I don’t – this is an example of a normal one I found on the web.

I have been meaning to write this blog post ever since I wrote the post about my salpingectomy. Actually, I have been meaning to write this blog post, or make a video, or something, ever since I had this procedure, but I am only getting around to it now. Better late than never!

Fair warning – this is a “life” post. No product reviews, no lighthearted encouragement to shop shop shop! I went through this and I’m super sorry if you also have to, but maybe this will be of some help to you.

So after I had part of my tube removed (see blog entry referenced above), the doctors told me I needed to have a hysterosalpingography, or HSG, or dye test. Now I just linked to the Wiki article to give you some background, but let me take issue with one thing in that article: use of the word “excruciatingly” when describing the pain level involved. I am about to get into details, but let me say up front that if you are facing this procedure, DO NOT PANIC. Some masochistic asshole must have written that description. It is NOT a picnic but it’s mercifully quick and you will be okay!

The way the HSG was explained to me was thus: You come in for the procedure, they insert a balloon catheter into your vagina, they fill your uterus with dye, and then they take a series of X-rays to watch the dye move through your fallopian tubes. The purpose of this procedure (in my case) was to determine if my left (still intact) tube was blocked. The ObGyn who did my surgery indicated that while he was removing my right tube, he tried to probe through the left tube and was unable to do so. He noted this could have been due to swelling/trauma in the area, but he wanted to be sure the left tube was not closed, since my first pregnancy had been stuck in my right tube. I was told the procedure could cause cramping and pain, and I should take Advil before coming in that morning.

Well, I really worked myself into a tizzy about this test. First of all, I was terrified that the results were going to be negative. So I convinced myself that I was going in for a painful procedure only to get bad news. Then, thanks to jackoffs like the author of that Wiki quote, I became convinced that this was so going to be so “excruciatingly” painful that I would be incapacitated for days. I was PETRIFIED. And you know what the absolute worst thing for a procedure like this is? To be tense and anxious. So again, if you are having this done – it will be okay! I survived it and so will you! Take a deep breath, baby yourself, and think of something nice to do for yourself after the test is over. Cause you know what? After it was over, I was totally fine within about ten minutes.

My husband took off from work to take me to the test, and my friend Somer was meant to meet us there before, but she didn’t make it till after we got called back to the room. Which was probably just as well, because nothing was calming me down.

The beginning was SOP for any woman who’s ever had a vaginal exam, except my husband was allowed to come in with me, which was a HUGE relief. He had to wear a lead apron to protect from the X-Rays, but he was allowed to sit RIGHT next to me and hold my hand.

The doctor inserted the speculum and then the balloon catheter. The nurse was AMAZING – I have never met a kinder or more compassionate nurse. She was rubbing my shoulders, telling us stories, everything she could to relax me. It wasn’t initially particularly painful – I actually find regular exams a bit uncomfortable, and it was no worse than that. Then came the dye.

I’m going to be totally honest here – it hurts. It hurts a lot. I was squeezing the bejesus out of my husband’s hand, smacking the X-ray machine, and shouting. There was a very painful combination of cramping and burning. The nurse and doctor were both telling me what a great job I was doing and how it was almost over and I didn’t give a fuzzy you-know-what because one second of that you-know-what was to you-know-whatting much. And then it was over. Really. I can’t tell you exactly how long the pain lasted but in hindsight I’d say no more than thirty seconds. The doctor removed the catheter, patted my leg, told me I’d done great, and then said –

“And your tube is open!”

And my husband and I both burst into tears. Because I’d have gone through an hour of that to hear those words.

The nurse told me to take as long as I needed, and gave us tissues. She was really exceptional. (This was at Swedish, by the way, in case anyone in the Seattle area is reading this and needs to have the procedure done. I HIGHLY recommend them.) I laid there for two or three minutes, sobbing in happiness, clutching my husband. Then I got control of myself, stood up, used the bathroom, and we left. The entire thing, start to finish, including undressing, dressing, and bathroom visits, took about fifteen minutes.

Somer was waiting for us out in the waiting room, several rooms away. She first hugged me, then said, “I heard yelling – was that you?!?” Glad I made my discomfort known, not just to the doctor, but to the entire floor.

And you know what we did then? We went and got crepes. And talked about how we were going to make a baby. And I had a perfectly normal rest of the day, and week.

So if you have to have this done, yeah, it’s gonna suck. It sucks no matter what your result is. But it’s a short suck, and frankly, even if the doctor had told me my tube was closed, I’d have been relieved, because not knowing is really what kills you. Once you have the information, you can make a plan. Feeling powerless I think really had a lot to do with my anxiety and fear.

Yay for Swedish, yay for my awesome husband, yay for my open tube, and hell – yay for HSG tests, because they tell you what you need to know to move on. If you’re going to have this done, good luck – relax and you’ll do fine!

5 Responses to “Hysterosalpingography (HSG, Dye) Test”

  1. Pallav May 1, 2012 at 4:39 am #

    I had an HSG 4 months ago. They ask you to not have sex breofe or after the procedure because when they dilate your cervix to put in the catheter, your risk for infection is very high. I actually work at the hospital where it was done and knew the tech, so it made it less scary. When they put the catheter in, it doesn’t feel any different than when you get your annual exam. You really can’t feel it go through your cervix. I was able to see the screen and they explained everything to me. The only painful part was when they injected the contrast, and that’s because it flows through the tubes and out into your abdomen. Your peritoneum is very sensitive.. do you have endometriosis? If you do, it’s the very same concept- when your menstrual flows goes through your tubes into your peritoneum, you get severe cramps. It lasted for about an hour after the procedure. My uterus and tubes were clear, and the radiologist told me a lot of people get pregnant after wards due to your tubes being very clear. Even if there was the slightest blockage, it would now be clear. I didn’t get pregnant in the 3 mos following, but my husband just had a semen analysis and they found WBC’s causing the sperm to agglutinate, so I’m praying after 10 days of antibiotics we will be able to get pregnant after 2 years of trying! Good luck to you, and don’t stress about the HSG.. it’ll be just fine ANd for the answerer breofe me-you get the informal results right away. The radiologist can tell you right then if you have any blockages or not. The radiologist then dictates his findings for your OB GYN to see. I got a call from my OB GYN about 2 weeks later, but of course I wasn’t expecting it because the radiologist had already let me know everything looked fine.


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