Complications after hysterosalpingography with oil- or water-based contrast: results of a nationwide survey

Inez Roest*, Nienke van Welie, Velja Mijatovic, Kim Dreyer, Marlies Bongers, Carolien Koks, Ben Willem Mol

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

15 Citations (Web of Science)


STUDY QUESTION: What is the incidence of complications after hysterosalpingography (HSG) using oil-based contrast versus water-based contrast?

SUMMARY ANSWER: Among 5165 women undergoing HSG, the most frequently reported complication after HSG with oil- and water-based contrast was intravasation of contrast medium (4.8% versus 1.3%, respectively), which was without further consequences, and pulmonary embolization or death did not occur.

WHAT IS KNOWN ALREADY: An HSG with oil-based contrast increases pregnancy rates in women with unexplained infertility. However, there have been some concerns regarding complications, including the risks of intravasation of the contrast medium, oil embolism and infection. Here, we present the incidence of complications after HSG with different types of contrast media used in the Netherlands in the year 2017.

STUDY DESIGN SIZE DURATION: In January 2018, an electronic survey was sent to all 73 clinics in the Netherlands that perform HSG. The survey consisted of 12 questions addressing the number of HSGs performed in 2017, the amount and type of contrast medium used, the occurrence of post-procedural complications and what their clinical consequences were. Non-responding clinics were sent multiple reminders.

PARTICIPANTS/MATERIALS SETTING METHODS: We calculated the incidence of the complications and reported on their clinical consequences. Furthermore, we examined the average amount of contrast used as well as the administration of prophylactic antibiotics.

MAIN RESULTS AND THE ROLE OF CHANCE: The response rate was 96% (67/70) (during the study, one site closed and was not included while two clinics no longer performed HSGs). In the 67 clinics, 3289 HSGs with oil-based contrast and 1876 HSGs with water-based contrast were performed in 2017. The median amount of contrast used was 8.0 ml (interquartile range (IQR) 7.0-10.0) for oil-based contrast and 10.0 ml for water-based contrast (IQR 10.0-10.0). Antibiotic prophylaxis was administered in 61% (41/67) of the clinics. Intravasation occurred in 4.8% of the HSGs performed with oil-based contrast and in 1.3% of the HSGs with water-based contrast (relative risk (RR), 3.6; CI, 2.4-5.4). Pulmonary embolism or death was not reported. Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) occurred in 0.3% of the HSGs performed with oil-based contrast versus 0.4% with water-based contrast. PID occurred in 0.3% of the HSGs in clinics using antibiotic prophylaxis and 0.2% in clinics not using antibiotic prophylaxis. Allergic reactions were reported in one HSG performed with oil-based contrast (0.03%) compared with two HSGs performed with water-based contrast (0.1%). Anaphylactic reactions did not occur. The overall complication rate was 5.1% in the clinics that used oil-based contrast versus 1.8% in the clinics that used water-based contrast (RR, 2.8; CI, 1.9-4.0; P-value, <0.0001).

LIMITATIONS REASONS FOR CAUTION: Half of the clinics did not routinely register complications, and the incidence of the complications in their clinic was based on the recall of the clinician. Estimated complication rates in the clinics with and without systematic registration did not significantly differ. The survey asked about the frequency of intravasation but no classification system is being used in daily practice, which may create differences in reporting. There was no standard screening of post-HSG thyroid function for the mother and the foetus.

WIDER IMPLICATIONS OF THE FINDINGS: In this nationwide cohort study, the complication rates after HSG were low. Intravasation occurred more frequently with the use of oil-based contrast compared with water-based contrast but did not lead to any problems or symptoms in any of the women. We therefore conclude that safety concerns should not be a reason to deny the use of oil-based contrast in women with unexplained infertility. The data also support that fluoroscopy appears to be an essential safety measure during HSG.

STUDY FUNDING/COMPETING INTERESTS: This work was partly funded by Guerbet, France. I.R. reports receiving travel fee for presenting at the Congress of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine 2019 from Guerbet. V.M. reports receiving travel and speaker's fee as well as research grants from Guerbet. K.D. reports receiving travel and speaker's fee from Guerbet. B.W.M. is supported by an National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Practitioner Fellowship (GNT1082548). B.W.M. reports consultancy for ObsEva, Merck KGaA and Guerbet and travel and research grants from Merck KGaA and Guerbet. The other authors do not report conflicts of interest.


Original languageEnglish
Article numberhoz045
Number of pages5
JournalHuman reproduction open
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • hysterosalpingography
  • infertility
  • contrast
  • complications
  • intravasation
  • embolization
  • safety

Cite this