Expectant care versus surgical treatment for miscarriage

Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2006 Apr 19;(2):CD003518. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD003518.pub2.


Background: Miscarriage is a common complication of early pregnancy that can have both medical and psychological consequences like depression and anxiety. The need for routine surgical evacuation with miscarriage has been questioned because of potential complications such as cervical trauma, uterine perforation, hemorrhage, or infection.

Objectives: To compare the safety and effectiveness of expectant management versus surgical treatment for early pregnancy loss.

Search strategy: We searched the Cochrane Pregnancy and Childbirth Group Trials Register (December 2005), the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (The Cochrane Library 2004, Issue 3), PubMed (1966 to March 2005), POPLINE (inception to March 2005), and LILACS (1982 to March 2005) and reference lists of reviews.

Selection criteria: Randomized trials comparing expectant care and surgical treatment (vacuum aspiration or dilation and curettage (D & C)) for miscarriage were eligible for inclusion.

Data collection and analysis: Two authors independently assessed trial quality and extracted data. We contacted study authors for additional information.

Main results: Five trials were included in this review with 689 total participants. The expectant-care group was more likely to have an incomplete miscarriage (RR 5.37; 95% CI 2.57 to 11.22). However, the time frames for declaring the process incomplete varied across the studies. The need for unplanned surgical treatment (such as vacuum aspiration or D&C) was greater for the expectant-care group (RR 4.78; 95% CI 1.99 to 11.48). The expectant-care group had more days of bleeding (WMD 1.59; 95% CI 0.74 to 2.45) and a greater amount of bleeding (WMD 1.00; 95% CI 0.60 to 1.40). Post-procedure diagnosis of infection was lower in the expectant-care group (RR 0.29; 95% CI 0.09 to 0.87). Information on psychological outcomes and pregnancy was too limited to draw conclusions.

Authors' conclusions: Expectant management led to a higher risk of incomplete miscarriage, need for surgical emptying of the uterus, and bleeding. None of these were serious. In contrast, surgical evacuation was associated with a significantly higher risk of infection. Given the lack of clear superiority of either approach, the woman's preference should play a dominant role in decision making. Medical management has added choices for women and their clinicians, but these were not reviewed here.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Abortion, Incomplete / diagnostic imaging
  • Abortion, Incomplete / surgery
  • Abortion, Spontaneous / diagnostic imaging
  • Abortion, Spontaneous / surgery*
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use
  • Bed Rest
  • Dilatation and Curettage
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Trimester, First
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Ultrasonography
  • Vacuum Curettage


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents