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Diagnosing an Ectopic Pregnancy

Diagnosing an Ectopic Pregnancy

In the majority of cases, ectopic pregnancies are effectively managed and treated, leaving a woman with no long-term health complications. However, such a successful conclusion is dependent upon a quick diagnosis, or a woman could face serious risks to her health.

Symptoms of an Ectopic Pregnancy

Women who have ectopic pregnancies do not always present with symptoms. Often, it is only when a woman's fallopian tubes ruptures (called a 'collapse') that it becomes apparent there is something wrong. Should a woman experience symptoms before a collapse, however, she will usually do so between weeks 5 to 14 of the pregnancy. These symptoms may include the following:-

  • Abdominal pain on one side;
  • Bowel pain;
  • Shoulder tip pain;
  • Vaginal bleeding;
  • Vomiting;
  • Diahorrea.

When a fallopian tube does rupture, this will lead to serious internal bleeding. This in turn will cause a woman to suffer:-

  • Light-headedness;
  • Faintness;
  • Pallor;
  • Diahorrea;
  • An increased heart rate.

Making a Diagnosis

If a pregnant woman presents with the aforementioned symptoms, medical professionals should be immediately alerted to the possibility of an ectopic pregnancy. Tests should be quickly carried out to determine whether or not this is the case. Such tests should include:-

1. A Vaginal Ultrasound

The first step will usually be to perform a transvaginal ultrasound. This involves a small probe being inserted into the vagina, allowing close-up images to be taken of the womb and surrounding area. This will then show the location of the pregnancy. Alternatively, the images may show an empty uterus, meaning a woman has a 'pregnancy of unknown location' another sign of an ectopic pregnancy.

2. Blood Tests

Another appropriate step would be for blood to be taken so that the levels of HCG can be assessed. HCG is the hormone produced by placental tissue, and will be lower than normal if a pregnancy is ectopic.

3. Laparoscopy

If neither of the previous two tests proves conclusive, a woman will need to undergo a laparoscopy. This is performed under general anaesthetic and involves a small tube with a camera attached to the end being inserted into the uterus. High resolution images will then be relayed to a screen, allowing an ectopic pregnancy to be identified.

Failure to Diagnose an Ectopic Pregnancy Is This Medical Negligence?

It is essential to diagnose an ectopic pregnancy before a woman experiences a collapse. Indeed, a ruptured fallopian tube is a medical emergency which can be fatal. To prevent any serious damage being done, the rupture will need to be urgently repaired or, as is usually the case, will have to be removed. Therefore should a woman present with symptoms which suggest an ectopic pregnancy, but doctors fail to make a prompt diagnosis, her health will be put in danger. This may happen because doctors: fail to organise tests, fail to correctly interpret test results, make a wrong diagnosis or fail to appreciate the seriousness of a woman's condition. In such cases, the poor level of treatment provided may well amount to medical negligence.

Medical Negligence What Action Can You Take?

If you have suffered as a result of an ectopic pregnancy which was not diagnosed in a timely fashion, you need to speak to a medical negligence solicitor. This is because you may have been the victim of a substandard level of medical care, meaning you will be entitled to make a medical negligence claim. If your claim succeeds, you will be awarded compensation for the pain, suffering and financial losses you have experienced.

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