Treatment of ectopic pregnancy: is a human chorionic gonadotropin level of 2,000 mIU/mL a reasonable threshold?

Radiology. 1997 Nov;205(2):569-73. doi: 10.1148/radiology.205.2.9356647.


Purpose: To determine whether a human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) level of 2,000 mIU/mL is a reasonable threshold for diagnosing ectopic pregnancy in the absence of ultrasound (US) findings of intrauterine pregnancy (IUP) and thus to prevent inappropriate treatment that will result in the loss of an otherwise normal pregnancy in women with early IUPs.

Materials and methods: The authors reviewed the medical records of and US scans obtained in 676 patients in whom ectopic pregnancy was clinically suspected between January 1, 1994, and December 31, 1995.

Results: Five hundred forty-eight patients had evidence of a normal or abnormal IUP. Fifty-one (40%) of the 128 patients without evidence of an IUP had an hCG level of more than 2,000 mIU/mL. Of these 51 patients, 15 (29%) were treated for ectopic pregnancy; 17 (33%) were not immediately treated for ectopic pregnancy and had a normal IUP at follow-up US.

Conclusion: An hCG level of 2,000 mIU/mL without US findings of IUP, while suggestive of an abnormal pregnancy, is not diagnostic. Per the results of recent studies, it is reasonable to closely follow up rather than treat many of these early, stable cases of ectopic pregnancy.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Chorionic Gonadotropin / blood*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy, Ectopic / diagnosis*
  • Pregnancy, Ectopic / diagnostic imaging
  • Pregnancy, Ectopic / therapy*
  • Ultrasonography, Prenatal


  • Chorionic Gonadotropin