Physiology of upward transport in the human female genital tract

Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2007 Apr:1101:1-20. doi: 10.1196/annals.1389.032. Epub 2007 Apr 7.


The uterus and fallopian tubes represent a functionally united peristaltic pump under the endocrine control of ipsilateral ovary. We have examined this function by using hysterosalpingoscintigraphy (HSS), recording of intrauterine pressure, electrohysterography, and Doppler sonography of the fallopian tubes. An uptake of labeled particles into the uterus was observed during the follicular and luteal phases of the cycle after application into the vagina. Transport into the oviducts, however, could only be demonstrated during the follicular phase. Furthermore, the predominant transport was into the tube ipsilateral to the ovary containing the dominant follicle. The pregnancy rate following spontaneous intercourse or insemination was higher in those women in whom ipsilateral transport could be demonstrated. The amount of material transported to the ipsilateral tube was increased after oxytocin administration, as demonstrated by radionuclide imaging and by Doppler sonography following instillation of ultrasound contrast medium. An increase in the basal tone and amplitude of contractions was observed after oxytocin administration. These results support the idea that the uterus and fallopian tubes act as a peristaltic pump, which increases transport of sperm into the oviduct ipsilateral to the ovary bearing the dominant follicle. Oxytocin appears to play a critical role in this peristaltic pump. A failure of the peristaltic mechanism is possibly responsible for infertility. We propose the term tubal transport disorder (TTD) as a nosological entity. Results from HSS could be a useful adjunct for choosing treatment modalities in patients with patent fallopian tubes suffering from infertility. These patients may be better served with in vitro fertilization (IVF).

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Fallopian Tubes / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hysterosalpingography
  • Male
  • Microspheres
  • Middle Aged
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Sperm Transport / physiology*
  • Spermatozoa / physiology*
  • Uterine Contraction / physiology
  • Uterus / anatomy & histology
  • Uterus / physiology*