Preoperative pregnancy testing: a survey of current practice

J Clin Anesth. 1997 Nov;9(7):546-50. doi: 10.1016/s0952-8180(97)00142-6.


Study objective: To examine contemporary practices and opinions regarding preoperative testing requirements, with special emphasis on perioperative pregnancy recognition and consequences thereof.

Design and setting: Anonymous questionnaire survey distributed to 300 (almost exclusively American) physicians attending the 1996 Society of Obstetric Anesthesia and Perinatology meeting.

Measurements and main results: Responses from 169 anesthesiologists indicated that approximately one-third mandated pregnancy testing via departmental policy. More anesthesiologists (p = 0.02) mandated routine pregnancy testing of all elective (30%) versus all emergency (17%) surgical patients. Sixty-six percent versus 20% percent, respectively, would require rather than simply offer pregnancy testing when history indicated possible pregnancy; 20% and 15%, respectively, of those surveyed indicated elective surgery would be canceled by the anesthesiologist if the patient were pregnant or refused testing (p = NS). Although 98% of respondents recognized a legal requirement to report child abuse, and 82% believed pregnancy in a juvenile (i.e., the child's age is under local legal defined age for consent to sex) by definition constituted child abuse, fewer than 4% would report this information to the police, even if the impregnating male were known to be an adult.

Conclusions: The desire to identify pregnancy using patient history was most prevalent among anesthesiologists, with less than one third using mandatory, departmentally imposed screening programs. Positive test results in minors are shared primarily with surgeons and patients, occasionally with parents and social services, but rarely with police, although a positive test almost universally signified child abuse, and mandatory reporting laws were acknowledged by anesthesiologists surveyed.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Anesthesiology / standards*
  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Child Abuse, Sexual
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians'
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Tests* / economics
  • Preoperative Care* / economics