Women with a high body mass index who request tubal ligation immediately post partum face no increased risk of complications, compared with normal-weight woman, according to a large, single-institution, retrospective study.

“Our study underscores the overall safety of postpartum tubal ligation among overweight and obese women,” John J. Byrne, MD, MPH, and colleagues at the University of Texas, Dallas, reported in Obstetrics & Gynecology.

“Even among women in the highest BMI category, this procedure is safe and effective,” they noted, despite previous studies identifying body mass index (BMI) higher than 40 kg/m2 “as a significant barrier to this procedure.”

“For the woman who is appropriately counseled and desires permanent contraception, BMI should not impede her access to the procedure,” Dr. Byrne and associates said.

The study included 3,670 women undergoing postpartum tubal ligation after a vaginal delivery between August 2015 and March 2019 at Parkland Hospital, which is operated by the Dallas County Hospital District.

The method used was the Parkland-type tubal ligation – a bilateral midsegment partial salpingectomy performed through a 2-3 cm infraumbilical incision. Women were excluded if they were planning additional surgery, such as ovarian cyst removal or hernia repair at the same time.

Comparing a composite outcome of surgical complications and subsequent pregnancies over a 5-year follow-up, the study found no differences across all maternal BMI categories, which were stratified as: underweight or normal weight (BMI, 24.9 or lower), overweight (25-29.9), class I obesity (30-34.9), class II obesity (35-39.9), and class III obesity (40 or higher).

A full breakdown of the composite morbidity included “blood transfusion, aborted procedure, intraoperative complications (bleeding requiring additional surgery, extension of incision), anesthetic complication (high spinal, bronchospasm, postdural puncture headaches requiring blood patch, and allergic reaction to anesthetic), postoperative complication (deep wound infection, venous thromboembolism, ileus, small bowel obstruction, acute intestinal herniation, peritonitis), return to operating room, incomplete transection of fallopian tube, and subsequent pregnancy,” they reported.

Among the study subjects, the mean BMI was 32.2, with 263 being underweight or normal weight at the time of admission, 1,044 being overweight, 1,371 having class I obesity, 689 having class II obesity, 303 having class III obesity, and 11 patients classified as supermorbidly obese (a BMI of 50 or higher).

Overall, “composite morbidity occurred in 49 (1.3%) women and was not significantly different across BMI categories (P = .07),” noted the authors.

More specifically, there were 19 (1.5%) composite morbidity events in the nonobese cohort and 30 (1.3%) in the obese cohort. “Even among women who had undergone prior abdominal surgery, there was no association of BMI with the rate of procedural complication,” Dr. Byrne and associates added.

The subsequent pregnancy rate was 1.63 per 1,000 procedures performed, which is “significantly lower than previously reported estimates,” they noted. In total, there were six subsequent pregnancies in the cohort: three full term, two ectopic, and one of unknown location.

“Although there was variability in operative time in all BMI categories, this is likely not clinically relevant as the range in operative time overlapped across groups,” reported the authors. “Other surgical metrics, such as estimated blood loss and length of hospitalization after tubal ligation, were found to be no different between BMI categories.”

Their findings “can be generalized to other tubal ligation forms, such as modified Pomeroy and even possibly salpingectomy, if the minilaparotomy incision is the same,” Dr. Byrne and colleagues suggested.

“This innovative study adds an important practical perspective to the literature on postpartum permanent contraception – a finding that should be reassuring for obstetrician/gynecologists,” commented Eve Espey, MD MPH, who was not involved in the research.

Dr. Eve Espey

Dr. Eve Espey

“Women with high BMI are significantly less likely to receive desired postvaginal delivery tubal ligation, compared to lower-BMI women, as documented in several prior studies,” said Dr. Espey, who is professor and chair of the department of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque.

“Although those studies did not explore the reasons for nonfulfillment, intuitively concerns about complications or inability to complete the procedure are the most likely explanations,” she added.

“Although this study is limited by its retrospective nature, the smaller number of women in the highest BMI category, and lack of information on patients with unfulfilled requests for tubal ligation, it is overall well designed and should serve to encourage physicians to proceed with postvaginal delivery tubal ligation in patients across all BMI categories,” Dr. Espey concluded.

The study received no external funding; Dr. Byrne and associates reported no relevant financial disclosures. Dr. Espey is a member of the Ob.Gyn. News editorial advisory board, and said she has no relevant financial disclosures.

SOURCE: Byrne JJ et al. Obstet Gynecol. 2020;136:342-8.