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tubal ligation

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Alternative Names 
"tubes tied", tubal sterilisation, fallopian tube ligation

Tubal ligation is a means of permanent birth control, or sterilisation. The fallopian tubes normally carry the female egg from the ovary to the uterus. In tubal ligation, these tubes are "tied off" to prevent pregnancy.

Who is a candidate for the procedure? 
Any woman in good health who does not want to be able to have children is a candidate for this procedure.

How is the procedure performed? 
Many women have the procedure done in a same-day surgery setting. Other women choose to have it done in the hospital shortly after the birth of a child. Some may have it done during a caesarean section or c-section delivery.

When the procedure is done during a c-section, it is considered an open procedure. This means that the doctor can see the tubes. For most other women, however, the procedure is done using a technique known as laparoscopy. Laparoscopy is a less invasive style of surgery. This means that there is a smaller incision, or cut, in the skin.

The procedure is normally done under general anaesthesia in which a person is put to sleep using medications. Several small instruments are inserted into the abdomen through small incisions. These include the laparoscope, a thin tube with a light and camera on the end of it.

Using the laparoscope, the surgeon identifies the fallopian tubes. Then the surgeon uses clips or special loops of material to "tie off" each tube. A portion of each tube may be cut out to make sure the woman won't become pregnant. The whole procedure usually takes less than an hour.

What happens right after the procedure? 
After the procedure, the woman is taken to the surgery recovery room. She will stay there until the anaesthesia wears off. Usually, the woman can go home later that day. If the procedure was done right after childbirth, the woman is usually taken back to her hospital room to recover.

What happens later at home? 
Home instructions will be given by the doctor. The woman may have pain after the surgery, but it is usually not severe. The doctor may prescribe analgesia.

What are the potential complications after the procedure? 
As with any surgery, bleeding, infection, and even death are possible complications. Some women develop chronic pelvic pain. Others become pregnant after having their tubes tied, though this happens in less than 1% of cases. Some women may regret their decision because they want children later in life. Reversal of the procedure is successful in some cases.

Reviewer: eknowhow Medical Review Panel
Editor: Dr John Hearne
Last Updated: 12/06/2005
Potential conflict of interest information for reviewers available on request

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