EARLY PREGNANCY ULTRASOUND
A 25-year-old woman is referred by the general practitioner (GP) for early pregnancy dat- ing ultrasound scan. She is gravida 4 para 2. Her first positive pregnancy test was 4 days ago and she went to her GP to arrange a termination of pregnancy as she feels that she cannot cope with another child. She has been taking the combined oral contraceptive pill (COCP), so pregnancy could not be dated clinically. She has no significant gynaecological history of note except for an episode of chlamydia aged 18 years, for which she and her partner were fully treated. As a child she had a ruptured appendix and needed a midline laparotomy. She has no other relevant past medical history.
She has had no pain though did note some moderate vaginal bleeding 2 weeks before for 3 days, which settled spontaneously.
She looks well with normal heart rate and blood pressure and a soft non-tender abdomen. Speculum examination shows a closed cervix with a normal discharge and no blood. The uterus feels normal size and is anteverted and mobile. There is no cervical excitation. There is slight tenderness in the left adnexa but no masses are palpable.
· How would you interpret this ultrasound scan result?
Serial serum human chorionic gonadotrophin (HCG) and progesterone is requested and the results are as follows:
Day 1: serum HCG 703 IU/L, progesterone 30 nmol/L
Day 3: serum HCG 905 IU/L, progesterone 24 nmol/L
What is the likely diagnosis and the differential diagnosis, and how would you further investigate and manage this woman?
The transvaginal ultrasound scan shows an empty uterus and no adnexal masses. This is therefore termed a pregnancy of unknown location (PUL).
PUL occurs in up to 20 per cent of women in early pregnancy units and the possible underlying diagnoses are:
· early intrauterine pregnancy: too early to be visualized on ultrasound
· failed pregnancy: a complete miscarriage where the pregnancy has been completely expelled but where no previous scan is available to confirm that an intrauterine pregnancy had been present
· ectopic pregnancy: the pregnancy is located outside the uterine cavity but has not been visualized at initial ultrasound examination.
Only 10 per cent of PULs are subsequently diagnosed as ectopic pregnancies, but all must be investigated with serial serum HCG to determine which of the above three diagnoses is likely.
The HCG at which an intrauterine pregnancy would normally be visualized is 1000–1500 IU/L (in most but not all cases). A normal early pregnancy would generally show an increase in HCG of over 66 per cent in each 48 h. The progesterone level is usually high (>60 nmol/L) in an ongoing pregnancy and low (<25 nmol/L) in a failing pregnancy.
this case the suboptimal HCG rise and mid-range progesterone are typical (but not
diagnostic) of an ectopic pregnancy, and the woman should have a repeat ultrasound within a few days.
If an ectopic pregnancy is visualized then medical or surgical manage- ment should depend on signs and
symptoms. If a pregnancy is still not
visualized and she becomes symptomatic then laparoscopy is indicated to establish the diagnosis. If HCG
continues to rise with no apparent pregnancy
visible, then methotrexate for persistent PUL may