Fetal outcomes in first trimester pregnancies with an indeterminate ultrasound

J Emerg Med. 2012 Sep;43(3):417-22. doi: 10.1016/j.jemermed.2011.05.021. Epub 2011 Jun 29.


Background: Pregnant women commonly present to the Emergency Department (ED) for evaluation during their first trimester. These women have many concerns, one of which is the viability of their pregnancy and the probability of miscarriage.

Study objectives: We sought to determine fetal outcomes of women with an indeterminate ultrasound who present to the ED during the first trimester of pregnancy.

Methods: A retrospective analysis of consecutive ED patient encounters from December 2005 to September 2006 was performed to identify patients who were pregnant and who had an indeterminate transvaginal ultrasound performed by an emergency physician or through the Radiology Department during their ED visit. Demographic data, obstetric/gynecologic history, and presenting symptoms were recorded onto a standardized patient chart template designed to be used for any first trimester pregnancy. Outcomes (spontaneous abortion, ectopic pregnancy, and 20-week gestation) were determined via computerized medical records.

Results: During the study timeframe, a total of 1164 patients were evaluated in the ED during the first trimester of their pregnancy; 359 patients (30.8%) met inclusion criteria and had a diagnosis of indeterminate ultrasound. Outcome data were obtained for 293 patients. Carrying the pregnancy to ≥20 weeks occurred in 70 patients (23.9%). Spontaneous abortion occurred in 193 women (65.9%), and 30 women (10.2%) were treated for an ectopic pregnancy. Total fetal loss incidence was 89.2% in patients presenting with any vaginal bleeding, compared to 34.7% in patients with pain only.

Conclusion: Indeterminate ultrasounds in the setting of first trimester symptomatic pregnancy are indicative of poor fetal outcomes. Vaginal bleeding increased the risk of fetal loss. These data will assist emergency physicians in counseling women in the ED who are found to have an indeterminate ultrasound.

MeSH terms

  • Abdominal Pain / epidemiology
  • Abortion, Spontaneous / epidemiology*
  • Adult
  • Emergency Service, Hospital
  • Female
  • Gestational Age
  • Humans
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Trimester, First*
  • Pregnancy, Ectopic / epidemiology*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Ultrasonography, Prenatal*
  • Uterine Hemorrhage / epidemiology
  • Young Adult