Hydrosalpinx: an underdiagnosed phenomenon in dairy goats

Fluid-filled structure

Since my goat ultrasound trip around England last month, I’ve been on a mission to identify an unusual-looking structure that was found in 4 goats (from a herd of 44). I’ve been through the usual suspects: hydrometra / starburst, cystic ovaries (with the help of Yvette), even udder (with the help of Julie Jarvis from Animal Cracker Farm) with or without mastitis. Nothing quite fits in terms of appearance or size.

Fluid-filled structure

Above: mystery structure in what should have been a pregnant goat


Last week, Dr Baxendell – a goat veterinarian in Australia – kindly recommended a paper by Maia et al. (2018). The authors explain that the incidence of reproductive disorders has been well-studied in cows, but, in comparison, somewhat neglected in goats. This was a similar story to that which I heard anecdotally when visiting various goat farms last month; there are still so many unknowns, and the goat breeding community are hungry for answers. Bridge Farm was the largest goat farm I visited and Lisa regularly allows researchers onto her farm to collect valuable data.



Measuring over 10cm in places, the above structures are too large to be ovarian cysts. Hydrometra or starburst is a possibility, but again, the size of the structure calls this diagnosis into question. I briefly considered udder, but given that I scanned over 100 goats all in the same way across the entire trip, it seems unlikely that I’d have done something so differently in 4 of them. Yet, as all three of these structures (uterus with hydrometra, ovarian cysts, udder) are also fluid-filled and have a similar appearance on ultrasound imaging, differentiating with certainty is a challenge.

The Maia et al. paper raises a fourth possibility: hydrosalpinx. The authors state that this is an underdiagnosed condition (only one mention of it in the literature in a live goat), frequently misdiagnosed as hydrometra or cystic ovarian disease. Indeed, given that follicular cysts and hydrometra were common accompaniments of hydrosalpinx in the present study, it is not difficult to see why it may be so frequently missed. The highest percentage of cases of hydrosalpinx were found in Saanens (in fact, all but one case were in Saanen goats, with the one exception found in an Alpine goat), with the vast majority nulliparous (had never had any kids) despite successful oestrous and mating.

Our mystery images, incidentally, also came from Saanen goats. At around 2.5cm in diameter on ultrasound and charactertised by a single anechoic area, however, hydrosalpinx seems an unlikely standalone diagnosis in these goats.

Unfortunately, the mystery remains, but it may be possible that there is a combination of factors at play here (for example, hydrosalpinx and hydrometra).

If you use ultrasound to scan your own goats and have seen this before or have a theory as to what it is, I’d love to hear from you. Please get in touch via our contact form or post a message on the Animal Ultrasound Association Facebook page.



Maia, F, Brandão, J, Souza-Fabjan, M. et al. (2018). Hydrosalpinx in dairy goats: Occurrence, ultrasound diagnosis, macro- and microscopic characterization. Small Ruminant Research, 160:5-11.


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