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Misdiagnosed ectopic pregnancies lead to birth defects

Michael Becker

Some Ohio residents may know what it is like to go through an ectopic pregnancy. An ectopic pregnancy occurs when an embryo is developing outside of a woman’s womb. Because this type of pregnancy can be life-threatening for a woman, doctors often recommend inducing an abortion by administering methotrexate. Of course, this experience can be very traumatic for a woman and an expecting father as well.

An article that has recently been published in the New England Journal of Medicine has warned that a pattern has emerged showing that doctors are misdiagnosing ectopic pregnancies. When a pregnancy is not actually ectopic and a woman is given methotrexate, she faces serious risks of miscarrying or delivering an infant who suffers from birth defects.

According to the piece in the New England Journal of Medicine, such misdiagnoses are not rare.

As a result of this problem, a panel of international doctors are now working to come up with new set of guidelines to diagnose early pregnancy complications.

The current guidelines for diagnosing ectopic pregnancies stem from the 1980s and 1990s, and clearly those rules are not fail-safe. According to one physician on the panel, who has been interviewed by National Public Radio, some doctors diagnose ectopic pregnancies using only blood tests and an ultrasound. In complicated situations, these tests alone might lead to misdiagnoses in as many as 40 percent of cases.

This is a very serious issue and it is critical for doctors to meet high standards when diagnosing ectopic pregnancies. Those who have been harmed by such a misdiagnosis in Ohio may wish to seek legal counsel to learn about their options to pursue justice.

Source:, “Tragically Wrong: When Good Early Pregnancies Are Misdiagnosed As Bad,” Carey Goldberg, Oct. 11, 2013

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