What is an ectopic pregnancy?
An ectopic pregnancy is one which is implanted in a site outside the uterine cavity. The most common place for an ectopic pregnancy is in the Fallopian tube. The Fallopian tube cannot accommodate the expanding pregnancy so it leads to problems like pain and vaginal bleeding.
Ultrasound Care’s obstetricians and sonographers are experts in ultrasound and the identification of eptopic pregnancy.
The Fallopian tube is the most common site for ectopic pregnancies, rarely they can occur within the ovary or the peritoneal surface of the abdominal cavity.
Is an ectopic pregnancy dangerous?
Unfortunately, ectopic pregnancies almost never result in a liveborn baby. In Australia most ectopic pregnancies are detected and treated early, before they become dangerous for the pregnant woman.
But if left untreated, an ectopic pregnancy can rupture and this can be dangerous due to the risk of bleeding.
How is an ectopic pregnancy diagnosed?
Trans-vaginal ultrasound examination is the best way to diagnose an ectopic pregnancy. An intra-uterine pregnancy can usually be seen by 5-6 weeks gestation or when the HCG level is more than 1000 IU/l.
In 95% of ectopic pregnancy cases, a good transvaginal ultrasound examination can actually image the ectopic pregnancy in the Fallopian tube. However occasionally the ectopic pregnancy is too small to be detected with ultrasound examination. Sometimes serial beta HCG blood levels and serial ultrasound examinations are required until the gestation sac gets big enough to see.
Sometimes there are other signs on ultrasound examination which are so suspicious of an ectopic pregnancy that your Ultrasound Care obstetrician will suggest a laparoscopy in order to see under direct vision.
How is an ectopic pregnancy treated?
There are several different ways to treat an ectopic pregnancy.
The best approach will depend on the gestation of the pregnancy, what sort of symptoms you have and what sort of previous surgery you have had. Options include surgical approaches like laparotomy or laparoscopy, with removal of the ectopic pregnancy. Depending on the extent of damage to the Fallopian tube, it may also need to be removed. Medical treatment, using medication to stop the gestation from growing may also be possible in certain cases.