This entry is as much for me as for you, since I have to learn and retain information, and somehow putting it on a webpage helps.
So, a 18-yo (just so it's not too depressing, and she's 14) comes to the ED for sharp, constant pain just above the waist of her hipster jeans on the left that doubles her over and came on like a tornado on a midwestern summer night (sorry, can't give a canned case). No nausea, vomiting, or fever. She doesn't remember when her last period was, and she says she's not sexually active.
VS: 98.6, 54, 18, 80/50, 98% RA.
A brief physical exam reveals a rigid abdomen with guarding and rebound tenderness low in the left lower quadrant as awesome life-saving ER nurses place two large-bore IVs and run in liters of normal saline before she gets whisked off to the OR.
Not so common, probably too Grey's Anatomy-like, although if we were on TV then one of the residents would've just splashed betadine on her tummy and opened her up in the parking lot with the help of the nurse who's carrying the baby of her fiancee. Ectopic pregnancy can present as frank shock but is more likely to present unruptured, which means the differential for vaginal bleeding in pregnant women at less than 20 weeks gestation is simple: ectopic pregnancy or some permutation of a spontaneous abortion (threatened, inevitable, possibly missed). Less likely but possible choices include a molar pregnancy or a GU problem masquerading (UTI, pyelo, stone).Overall, ectopic pregnancies are the second-leading cause of maternal demise in the US and complicate 2% of all pregnancies. For some reason the data is old but in 1986 that meant over 75,000 hospitalizations.
Medicine likes threes, and amenorrhea, abdominal pain, and vaginal bleeding is the ectopic triad but it's not very reliable--the patient may not be amenorrheic--at least not for the most typical six to twelve weeks--and may not be bleeding, at least not visibly. In the case above, the ruptured ectopic causes a bradycardic, hypovolemic picture due to the vagal stimulation caused by blood in the peritoneum. Not sure if it's real but I'm lookin' out for it.
Obviously, in the case above as in every female of child-bearing years plus five in either direction as well as drag queens a urine beta-hcg is the initial test usually done in the parking lot. A quantitative serum beta-hcg can be used but as Tintanelli's is very clear to point out (it's in bold for the idjits like me who skim) there is overlap and no level can reliably exclude an ectopic in favor of an IUP.
Ultrasound! Grand rounds last week, endovaginal U/S can find a gestational sack in the uterus at 5 weeks. Five weeks! That's barely long enough to start wondering and run to Walgreens, even if all our patients leveled with us and told us when they had last been sexually active or had a period.
Ectopic pregnancies can implant in the tubes most often, or interstitially in the uterine wall, or elsewhere; however, if there IS an EP, then the endometrial stripe should be thickened and without a gestational sac. That, along with the story, is likely enough to at least get an OB consult.
Treatment. In the above case, go directly to OR, do not pass GO, I would suppose. But most cases aren't like that. Options are laparoscopy which I would advise or IM methotrexate, which has a success rate quoted at 91%, but can cause a lot of pain as it aborts the EP chemically. The last 'detail' is to type and screen mom, and give her RhoGAM if she is Rh negative to prevent from alloimmunization.
Can't help but wonder how EPs are viewed by people who champion the rights of the unborn. If life begins at conception and this is an abortion would treatment of EPs be legal in the setting of a Roe v. Wade reversal that did not have an exception for the life or health of the mother? Hopefully they'll be smart enough to specify IUP abortions. I actually had a colleague in med school who was very strong in her views and said she would not offer methotrexate as it somehow was more abortion-y than laparascopy in this case.Sorry for the boring post. I'm on medicine now, I don't have any good stories anyway. Besides, it's not all about you. Sheesh.