Fragmentation of Care in Ectopic Pregnancy

Matern Child Health J. 2016 May;20(5):955-61. doi: 10.1007/s10995-016-1979-z.


Objectives: Ectopic pregnancy is an important cause of maternal morbidity and mortality. Women who experience fragmented care may undergo unnecessary delays to diagnosis and treatment. Based on ectopic pregnancy cases observed in clinical practice that raised our concern about fragmentation of care, we designed an exploratory study to describe the number, characteristics, and outcomes of fragmented care among patients with ectopic pregnancy at one urban academic hospital.

Methods: Chart review with descriptive statistics. Fragmented care was defined as a patient being evaluated at an outside facility for possible ectopic pregnancy and transferred, referred, or discharged before receiving care at the study institution.

Results: Of 191 women seen for possible or definite ectopic pregnancy during the study period, 42 (22 %) met the study definition of fragmented care. The study was under-powered to observe statistically significant differences across groups, but we found concerning, non-significant trends: patients with fragmented care were more likely to be Medicaid recipients (65.9 vs. 58.8 %) and to experience a complication (23.8 vs. 18.1 %) compared to those with non-fragmented care. Most patients (n = 37) received no identifiable treatment prior to transfer and arrived to the study hospital with no communication to the receiving hospital from the outside provider (n = 34). Nine patients (21 %) presented with ruptured ectopic pregnancies. The fragmentation we observed in our study may contribute to previously identified socio-economic disparities in ectopic pregnancy outcomes.

Conclusion: If future research confirms these findings, health information exchanges and regional coordination of care may be important strategies for reducing maternal mortality.

Keywords: Ectopic pregnancy; Fragmentation of care; Maternal morbidity; Processes of care.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Continuity of Patient Care*
  • Ethnicity
  • Female
  • Health Care Surveys
  • Health Services Accessibility
  • Healthcare Disparities*
  • Humans
  • Maternal Mortality
  • Medicaid
  • Poverty*
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications / epidemiology
  • Pregnancy Outcome*
  • Pregnancy, Ectopic* / diagnosis
  • Pregnancy, Ectopic* / ethnology
  • Pregnancy, Ectopic* / therapy
  • United States