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Pulling the plug on sterilization.

When a woman has her fallopian tubes "tied," the sterilization effected can be forever. Contraceptive counselors do not recommend tubal sterilization to women seeking a reversible form of contraception, because reversal, which requires removal of the damaged section of the tube and exacting microsurgery to reconnect it, frequently doesn't work.

C. Irving Meeker of the Maine Medical Center in Portland and Wilfred Roth of the University of Vermont in Burlington set out to develop a device to make sterilization more reversible, and have come up with the gizmo at right. The idea is to protect the fallopian tube (see inset) from being crushed, so that no microsurgery is required for reversal.

They have implanted the device in 18 baboons for 6 to 18 months. Within a year of removal, 10 of the 18 got pregnant. This 56 percent conception rate compares to a 65 percent rate in unsterilized baboons, representing "a high degree of reversibility for the method," they report in the March OBSTETRICS & GYNECOLOGY.

For insertion, a small slit is made in the abdomen and the plug (far right) is threaded into the fallopian tube through its open end near the ovary. The clip (center) is placed around the plug and tube, and the lock (near right) fits into the clip to hold it shut. The egg, released from the ovary into the fallopian tube, is stopped by the plug and reabsorbed by the body.

To reverse the procedure, the lock and clip are removed and the plug is either eased out of the tube or taken out through a small slit. The researchers plan to start testing in humans when they receive Food and Drug Administration approval.

Meeker says he hopes the device will prove useful for women in their 20s who are not planning to have more children but may change their mind. He anticipates it could also be valuable in underdeveloped countries like China, where strong political pressure for sterilization is resisted by couples with one child who worry that something may happen to their only offspring. "For them," says Meeker, "the possibility of reversal becomes extremely important."
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Title Annotation:reversible form of sterilization for women
Author:Silberner, Joanne
Publication:Science News
Date:Mar 16, 1985
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