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Misdiagnosis of an Ectopic Pregnancy: Birth Injuries and Methotrexate

Treating a misdiagnosed ectopic pregnancy with methotrexate may cause a miscarriage or result in deformities upon birth in an otherwise normal pregnancy according to a study performed by Organization of Teratology Information Specialists (OTIS). While the study group was quite small, investigators believe the results strongly indicate the need to improve tools for the accurate diagnosis of an ectopic pregnancy.

Administration of methotrexate during the first trimester of pregnancy can cause a miscarriage, can result in the pregnancy being terminated or can cause severe deformities in a child born despite taking the drug. Rhode Island medication errors attorneys remind expectant mothers that the side effects of an unnecessary drug administered as a result of a misdiagnosis are preventable and the patient should not be left to dealt with them alone.

Risks of Ectopic Pregnancies

An ectopic pregnancy occurs when a fertilized egg begins to develop before reaching the uterus. Typically, the egg implants itself to the wall of the fallopian tubes, rather than of the uterus, and then does not have the space to grow and develop without threatening the life of the mother.

Statistics show that an ectopic pregnancy occurs somewhere between once in every 40 to once in every 100 pregnancies. An ectopic pregnancy cannot be carried to term; allowing the egg to develop if it actually does, poses a serious risk to the mother's health. An untreated ectopic pregnancy can lead to rupture, requiring surgery and possibly a blood transfusion.

Diagnosis of an ectopic pregnancy is not a clear-cut process. Symptoms often are the same as those expected with a normal pregnancy. An ultrasound may be used to visually confirm an ectopic pregnancy, but it is possible that the mother may not yet be far enough along for an ultrasound to be effective and she may have to return for a repeat.

Once diagnosed, methotrexate is often given to women still in early stages to dissolve the ectopic pregnancy rather than using surgical measures. But, as the study has shown, a misdiagnosed ectopic pregnancy can lead to improper administration of methotrexate for a normal pregnancy and have dire consequences for the mother and her unborn child.

Source:, "Normal Pregnancies May Be Misdiagnosed as Ectopic," 13 January 2012

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