Pitfalls and tips in the diagnosis of ectopic pregnancy

Abdom Radiol (NY). 2017 May;42(5):1524-1542. doi: 10.1007/s00261-016-1020-4.


Women of reproductive age with pelvic pain, vaginal bleeding, and a positive pregnancy test often require evaluation with pelvic ultrasound. In these situations, the primary role of pelvic ultrasound is to differentiate an ectopic pregnancy from either a normal or abnormal intrauterine pregnancy. While an accurately performed and interpreted pelvic ultrasound results in rapid diagnosis and management, numerous diagnostic pitfalls can lead to negative outcomes. Therefore, familiarity with the appropriate laboratory tests, sonographic technique, and imaging features of ectopic pregnancy is essential for all radiologists. We present a review of ectopic pregnancy cases from our institution with attention to common pitfalls and troubleshooting tips for physicians who perform and interpret pelvic ultrasounds. We also present recently published literature to aid in the management of first trimester pregnancy.

Keywords: Ectopic pregnancy; Human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG); Pregnancy of unknown location.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy, Ectopic / diagnostic imaging*
  • Ultrasonography / methods*