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Early Pregnancy Loss Differential Diagnoses

  • Author: Elizabeth E Puscheck, MD; Chief Editor: Richard Scott Lucidi, MD, FACOG  more...
 
Updated: Nov 14, 2015
 
 

Diagnostic ConsiderationsImportant considerationsOther problems to be considered

Failure to diagnose correctly may occur in early pregnancy loss.. A presumed completed abortion may be an ectopic pregnancy with passage of clot in which the clot was thought to be tissue. Use caution, as missing an ectopic pregnancy can be a life-threatening situation. If uncertainty exists regarding whether the passed material is tissue or a clot, have a pathologist evaluate it prior to sending the patient out.

If a suction D&C is performed, then a known complication in a small percentage of cases is Asherman syndrome or intrauterine synechiae. This situation may cause amenorrhea, infertility, or miscarriage in these patients in the future. Be gentle with the sharp curettage after the suction, and, if there is difficulty, ultrasound guidance may be helpful. Do not forget that bleeding may be occurring due to DIC, which requires replacement of the missing factors.

Perforation of the uterus may occur if a suction D&C is performed. Pregnant uteri are softer than the unpregnant state, and it is easier to perforate. Uterine perforation may occlude itself naturally because the uterus is a muscle that can undergo contraction and place its own pressure on the site until the bleeding stops. However, uncontrolled internal bleeding from a uterine perforation may require additional surgery, either a laparoscopy or laparotomy to control the bleeding. Occasionally, a hysterectomy may be the last resort to control the bleeding, which would eliminate the patient's ability to conceive in the future. Unrecognized uterine perforations may lead to significant internal bleeding that could be a life threat. Observe patients closely after a D&C and listen when patients complain of unusual symptoms (eg, shoulder pain, unexpectedly significant abdominal pain).

Misdiagnosis of an early intrauterine pregnancy for an ectopic pregnancy and administering methotrexate inappropriately may occur if the physician is not familiar with the laboratory and ultrasonography department's discriminatory zone. Thinking about the patient's history and physical examination, differential diagnosis (including multiple gestations), the accuracy of the gestational age, the hCG level (and pattern of hCG levels if checked every 2 d), and ultrasonographic findings is very important to make an appropriate diagnosis. This is an area of rapidly growing malpractice in obstetrics and gynecology.

Misdiagnosis of an ectopic pregnancy as an incomplete or inevitable abortion can be a problem. In these cases, it is important to follow up on the pathology findings from the suction D&C. If one is uncertain, ask pathology to evaluate the specimen while one is still in the operating room and proceed to laparoscopy if no chorionic villi are found in the suction D&C specimen.

Other conditions to consider in patients with early pregnancy loss include:

  • Abortion, incomplete
  • Abortion, inevitable
  • Acute appendicitis
  • Cervical polyps, ectropion, or malignancy
  • Ovarian torsion
  • Pregnancy, molar
  • Pregnancy, subchorionic hemorrhage
  • Vaginal/vulvar condylomata

Differential Diagnoses

 
 
Contributor Information and Disclosures
Author

Elizabeth E Puscheck, MD Professor, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Wayne State University School of Medicine; In Vitro Fertilization Director, Gynecologic Ultrasound Director, Clinical Endocrine Laboratory Consultant, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University Women's Care

Elizabeth E Puscheck, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Institute of Ultrasound in Medicine, International Society for Clinical Densitometry, Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology, Society of Reproductive Surgeons, Society for Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, American Society for Reproductive Medicine, Association of Professors of Gynecology and Obstetrics, Endocrine Society

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Specialty Editor Board

Francisco Talavera, PharmD, PhD Adjunct Assistant Professor, University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Pharmacy; Editor-in-Chief, Medscape Drug Reference

Disclosure: Received salary from Medscape for employment. for: Medscape.

Richard S Legro, MD Professor, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Division of Reproductive Endocrinology, Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine; Consulting Staff, Milton S Hershey Medical Center

Richard S Legro, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Society of Reproductive Surgeons, American Society for Reproductive Medicine, Endocrine Society, Phi Beta Kappa

Disclosure: Received honoraria from Korea National Institute of Health and National Institute of Health (Bethesda, MD) for speaking and teaching; Received honoraria from Greater Toronto Area Reproductive Medicine Society (Toronto, ON, CA) for speaking and teaching; Received honoraria from American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists (Washington, DC) for speaking and teaching; Received honoraria from National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Pediatric and Adolescent Gynecology Research Thi.

Chief Editor

Richard Scott Lucidi, MD, FACOG Associate Professor of Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine

Richard Scott Lucidi, MD, FACOG is a member of the following medical societies: American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, American Society for Reproductive Medicine

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Additional Contributors

Suzanne R Trupin, MD, FACOG Clinical Professor, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Illinois College of Medicine at Urbana-Champaign; CEO and Owner, Women's Health Practice; CEO and Owner, Hada Cosmetic Medicine and Midwest Surgical Center

Suzanne R Trupin, MD, FACOG is a member of the following medical societies: American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, American Institute of Ultrasound in Medicine, International Society for Clinical Densitometry, AAGL, North American Menopause Society, American Medical Association, Association of Reproductive Health Professionals

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Acknowledgements

The authors and editors of Medscape Drugs & Diseases gratefully acknowledge the contributions of previous author Archana Pradhan, MD, MPH, to the development and writing of this article.

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Second transvaginal sonogram obtained 1 week after the initial study fails to demonstrate fetal development. This confirms the diagnosis of an embryonic pregnancy.
1a Video courtesy; Armando Hernandez
1b Video courtesy; Armando Hernandez
1c Video courtesy; Armando Hernandez
1d Video courtesy; Armando Hernandez
1e Video courtesy; Armando Hernandez
 
 
 
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