– Higher body mass index is not associated with increased morbidity in women undergoing postpartum tubal ligation, according to a study of more than 1,000 patients.

Dr. John J. Byrne of the department of obstetrics and gynecology at University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas. Jake Remaly/MDedge News

Dr. John J. Byrne

“Even among patients within the highest BMI category, postpartum sterilization remains a safe and reasonable option,” John J. Byrne, MD, said at the Pregnancy Meeting. Dr. Byrne is affiliated with the department of obstetrics and gynecology at University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas.

Physicians may recommend contraception within 6 weeks of delivery, but many patients do not attend postpartum visits. “One option for women who have completed childbearing is bilateral midsegment salpingectomy via minilaparotomy,” Dr. Byrne said at the Pregnancy Meeting, sponsored by the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine. “Offering this procedure immediately after delivery makes it available to women who face obstacles to follow-up care.”

The procedure entails the risk of anesthetic complications, bowel injury, and vascular injury. Subsequent pregnancy or ectopic pregnancy also may occur. Some centers will not perform the procedure if a patient’s size affects the surgeon’s ability to feel the relevant anatomy, Dr. Byrne said. “Although operative complications are presumed to be higher among obese women,” prior studies have not examined whether BMI affects rates of procedure completion, complication, or subsequent pregnancy, the researchers said.

To study this question, Dr. Byrne and colleagues examined data from women who requested postpartum sterilization following vaginal delivery at their center in 2018. The center uses the Parkland tubal ligation technique. The researchers assessed complication rates using a composite measure that included surgical complications (that is, blood transfusion, aborted procedure, or extension of incision), anesthetic complications, readmission, superficial or deep wound infection, venous thromboembolism, ileus or small bowel obstruction, incomplete transection, and subsequent pregnancy. The investigators used statistical tests to assess the relationship between BMI and morbidity.

In all, 1,014 patients underwent a postpartum tubal ligation; 17% had undergone prior abdominal surgery. The researchers classified patients’ BMI as normal (7% of the population), overweight (28%), class I obesity (38%), class II obesity (18%), or class III obesity (9%). A composite morbidity event occurred in 2%, and the proportion of patients with a complication did not significantly differ across BMI categories. No morbid events occurred in patients with normal BMI, which indicates “minimal risk” in this population, Dr. Byrne said. One incomplete transection occurred in a patient with class I obesity, and one subsequent pregnancy occurred in a patient with class II obesity. Estimated blood loss ranged from 9 mL in patients with normal BMI to 13 mL in patients with class III obesity, and length of surgery ranged from 32 minutes to 40 minutes. Neither difference is clinically significant, Dr. Byrne said.

“For the woman who desires permanent contraception, BMI should not impede her access to the procedure,” he noted.

The researchers had no relevant disclosures.

SOURCE: Byrne JJ et al. Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2020 Jan;222(1):S290, Abstract 442.