Clinicians' perception of sonogram indication for mifepristone abortion up to 63 days

Contraception. 2002 Jul;66(1):27-31. doi: 10.1016/s0010-7824(02)00316-5.


One barrier in the US to wider acceptance of mifepristone for abortion is the additional cost of the routine use of two sonograms, that is, for pregnancy dating and confirmation of a complete abortion. The purpose of this study is to document how the accuracy of medical abortion clinicians experienced with pelvic exams and dating pregnancies in assessing gestational age at the first visit compared with sonograms, and to identify the factors influencing whether they perceive that sonograms are desired or indicated at the first and follow-up visits. This was a prospective study of 1016 women wanting to participate in a medical abortion trial. After informed consent, clinicians (1) dated the pregnancy before routine sonography and (2) determined whether a sonogram was indicated. Women with sonographic pregnancies of less than 63 days were eligible for mifepristone followed by misoprostol 48 h later. Women returned on Day 4 to Day 8, and clinicians performed a clinical assessment of whether the abortion was complete and determined whether a sonogram was indicated. Fifteen sites participated. Advanced-level providers performed 56% of the assessments. When clinicians assessed a pregnancy under 43 days gestation, they perceived that a sonogram was "not indicated" in 60% of these women. This percentage increased to 66% at 43-49 days gestation, and declined to 46% of women assessed at more than 49 days. Clinicians correctly assessed gestational age as no more than 63 days in 87% of women. In only 1% (14/1013) of their assessments did clinicians underestimate gestational age. In 7/24 (29%) women with a persistent gestational sac, clinicians did not indicate the need for sonography when it was likely indicated. We conclude that the clinicians in our study felt confident in not using sonography in most cases. If clinicians monitor hCG levels to identify any ectopic or continuing pregnancies, medical abortion can be safely performed without sonography.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study

MeSH terms

  • Abortifacient Agents / therapeutic use
  • Abortion, Induced*
  • Adult
  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Female
  • Gestational Age*
  • Humans
  • Mifepristone / therapeutic use
  • Physical Examination
  • Pregnancy
  • Prospective Studies
  • Referral and Consultation*
  • Ultrasonography, Prenatal / statistics & numerical data*
  • United States


  • Abortifacient Agents
  • Mifepristone