Bring An Equalizer to the Fight. Choose a Firm That Was Created to Advocate for Victims.

Study Aims to Prevent Misdiagnosis of Ectopic Pregnancy

Misdiagnosis is one of the most common types of medical malpractice, accounting for up to 20 percent of all medical mistakes. In the field of obstetrics and gynecology, misdiagnosis of ectopic pregnancy can lead to tragic consequences for both mother and child.

An ectopic pregnancy is one that occurs outside of the uterus. Because it can be potentially life threatening, the mother is generally prescribed methotrexate, a drug used to induce abortion. The problem is that as many as 40 percent of ectopic pregnancies are initially misdiagnosed. As a result, healthy pregnancies are terminated unnecessarily.

According to a recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine , updating the way ectopic and other nonviable pregnancies are diagnosed could prevent many of these medical errors.

“Considerable evidence suggests that mistakes such as these are far from rare,” the study states. It further notes that misdiagnosis of ectopic pregnancy is an increasingly common subject of medical malpractice lawsuits.

To prevent the high rate of false positive diagnosis, the authors convened a panel of experts in obstetrics and gynecology, radiology, and emergency medicine to develop more stringent guidelines for diagnosing ectopic pregnancies and miscarriage. Under the recommended protocol, if there is any uncertainty regarding the diagnosis and the mother’s health is not in immediate danger, doctors are advised to wait and perform an additional ultrasound.

“A false positive diagnosis of nonviable pregnancy early in the first trimester — incorrectly diagnosing pregnancy failure in a woman…— can prompt interventions that damage a pregnancy that might have had a normal outcome,” the authors conclude.

“Recent research has shown the need to adopt more stringent criteria for the diagnosis of nonviability in order to minimize or avoid false positive test results. The guidelines presented here, if promulgated widely to practitioners in the various specialties involved in the diagnosis and management of problems in early pregnancy, would improve patient care and reduce the risk of inadvertent harm to potentially normal pregnancies.”