The diagnostic effectiveness of an initial transvaginal scan in detecting ectopic pregnancy

Hum Reprod. 2007 Nov;22(11):2824-8. doi: 10.1093/humrep/dem283. Epub 2007 Sep 13.


Background: To determine the effectiveness of an initial transvaginal ultrasound scan (TVS) in the detection of ectopic pregnancy in consecutive women attending an early pregnancy unit (EPU).

Methods: This was a prospective observational study. Unselected women attending a dedicated EPU underwent a TVS. Women were classified as having an intrauterine pregnancy (IUP), ectopic pregnancy or pregnancy of unknown location (PUL). Women with a PUL were followed up until the final location of the pregnancy was determined. The sensitivity, specificity, positive predictive value (PPV) and negative predictive value (NPV) with 95% confidence intervals (CIs) for the initial TVS in the diagnosis of ectopic pregnancy were calculated.

Results: During a one-year study period, 5318 consecutive women attended the EPU. Outcome data were available for 5240 (98.5%) women. Of these, the initial TVS showed an IUP in 4693 (89.6%) cases and an ectopic pregnancy in 91 (1.7%) cases. The remaining 456 (8.7%) women were classified as PUL, and of these 31 (6.8%) were subsequently found to have ectopic pregnancies. The overall sensitivity of the initial TVS in the diagnosis of ectopic pregnancy was 73.9% (95% CI: 65.1-81.6) with a specificity of 99.9% (95% CI: 99.8-100), a PPV of 96.7% (95% CI: 90.7-99.3) and an NPV of 99.4% (95% CI: 99.2-99.6).

Conclusions: In unselected women attending an EPU, pregnancy location can be diagnosed accurately in over 90% of all pregnancies and in 73.9% of ectopic pregnancies with a single TVS.

MeSH terms

  • Chorionic Gonadotropin / blood
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Outcome
  • Pregnancy Trimester, First
  • Pregnancy, Ectopic / diagnosis*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Ultrasonography, Prenatal / instrumentation*
  • Ultrasonography, Prenatal / methods*


  • Chorionic Gonadotropin