South African Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology

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Retrospective review of the medical management of ectopic pregnancies with methotrexate at a South African tertiary hospital

L de Waard, J L Butt, C J B Muller, C A Cluver


Background. An ectopic pregnancy can be a life-threatening condition. Early diagnosis with ultrasonography and quantitative betahuman chorionic gonadotrophin (β-hCG) measurement has improved early and accurate diagnosis and treatment. Medical management with methotrexate internationally has a success rate of up to 93%, but there is a paucity of data on this treatment option in developing countries.
Objective. To determine the success of methotrexate treatment for ectopic pregnancies at a referral hospital in a developing country. This non-surgical, outpatient treatment seems a good option in hospitals with an ever-rising pressure on bed occupation and long waiting lists for emergency surgery.
Methods. A 5-year retrospective audit was performed on 124 patients treated for ectopic pregnancies with methotrexate at Tygerberg Hospital, Cape Town, South Africa.
Results. With success defined as a β-hCG level of <15 IU/L without requiring surgical intervention, the success rate was 44%. Fifteen per cent of medically managed patients required surgery. The remaining 41% were lost to follow-up. One patient had a major adverse outcome with a ruptured ectopic and required 2 units of blood, resuscitation and emergency laparotomy.
Conclusion. Medical management of ectopic pregnancies is a safe and effective management option, as proven by international data, but at Tygerberg Hospital the safety of this treatment modality cannot be guaranteed because of poor follow-up. Improvement in patient selection with consideration of predictors of success and thorough counselling, as well as full informed consent, is recommended before using this treatment modality. A new follow-up system should be developed at Tygerberg Hospital to guarantee patient safety.
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