Results from a study using misoprostol for management of incomplete abortion in Vietnamese hospitals: implications for task shifting

BMC Pregnancy Childbirth. 2013 May 22:13:118. doi: 10.1186/1471-2393-13-118.


Background: Complications following spontaneous or induced abortion are a major cause of maternal morbidity. To manage these complications, post-abortion care (PAC) services should be readily available and easy to access. Standard PAC treatment includes surgical interventions that are highly effective but require surgical providers and medical centers that have the necessary space and equipment. Misoprostol has been shown to be an effective alternative to surgical evacuation and can be offered by lower level clinicians. This study sought to assess whether 400 mcg sublingual misoprostol could effectively evacuate the uterus after incomplete abortion and to confirm its applicability for use at lower level settings.

Methods: All women presenting with incomplete abortion at one of three hospitals in Vietnam were enrolled. Providers were not asked to record if the abortion was spontaneous or induced. It is likely that all were spontaneous given the legal status and easy access to abortion services in Vietnam. Participants were given 400 mcg sublingual misoprostol and instructed to hold the pills under their tongue for 30 minutes and then swallow any remaining fragments. They were then asked to return one week later to confirm their clinical status. Study clinicians were instructed to confirm a complete expulsion clinically. All women were asked to complete a questionnaire regarding satisfaction with the treatment.

Results: Three hundred and two women were enrolled between September 2009 and May 2010. Almost all participants (96.3%) had successful completions using a single dose of 400 mcg misoprostol. The majority of women (87.2%) found the side effects to be tolerable or easily tolerable. Most women (84.3%) were satisfied or very satisfied with the treatment they received; only one was dissatisfied (0.3%). Nine out of ten women would select this method again and recommend it to a friend (91.0% and 90.0%, respectively).

Conclusions: This study confirms that 400 mcg sublingual misoprostol effectively evacuates the uterus for most women experiencing incomplete abortion. The high levels of satisfaction and side effect tolerability also attest to the ease of use of this method. From these data and given the international consensus around the effectiveness of misoprostol for incomplete abortion care, it seems timely that use of the drug for this indication be widely expanded both throughout Vietnam and wherever access to abortion care is limited.

Trial registration:, NCT00670761.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Abortifacient Agents, Nonsteroidal / therapeutic use*
  • Abortion, Incomplete / diagnostic imaging
  • Abortion, Incomplete / drug therapy*
  • Administration, Sublingual
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Female
  • Hospital Administration
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Misoprostol / therapeutic use*
  • Patient Satisfaction
  • Physician's Role*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Ultrasonography
  • Vietnam
  • Young Adult


  • Abortifacient Agents, Nonsteroidal
  • Misoprostol

Associated data