The Taylor&Emmet Blog

Ectopic pregnancies

Sadly there are many women who suffer an ectopic pregnancy. Having an ectopic pregnancy does not of itself indicate there has been medical negligence. The key questions are whether you were diagnosed within a reasonable time and whether you were given the correct treatment.

An ectopic pregnancy occurs when a fertilised egg develops outside of the womb, usually within one of the fallopian tubes. Sadly these pregnancies cannot survive. If you have the symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy you should seek immediate medical advice.

Your GP should ask you to do a pregnancy test. If it comes back positive and your symptoms suggest an ectopic pregnancy you should be referred to see a hospital specialist. Potentially, you should then have a blood test to review your pregnancy hormone levels and an ultrasound scan. If the womb is empty but you have high levels of the pregnancy hormone it may be that you have an ectopic pregnancy. If the test results are not clear they may be repeated and if necessary, a laparoscopy may be performed to look inside your tubes.

To bring a successful medical negligence claim it must be shown that the medical professional involved breached their duty of care, causing you to suffer an injury you would not have had otherwise. For instance, a failure from the GP or hospital to diagnose the problem or to give you the correct treatment may cause your tube to rupture, or cause other complications.

If your GP has not referred you to see a hospital specialist as soon as they should have, or the hospital fails to, or delays in testing you for an ectopic pregnancy, it might be that the medical professional has breached their duty of care. If the test results are not clear and further tests are not performed this could be negligent treatment. If the symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy are present but you are misdiagnosed and are not given any treatment this may also be negligent care. It may be that an ectopic pregnancy is diagnosed, but your treatment is delayed.

It is imperative that the GP and the hospital staff act quickly to confirm if you have an ectopic pregnancy. The later it is diagnosed and treated, the more likely it is that your fallopian tube(s) will be damaged, or ruptured. This can cause internal bleeding and can affect future pregnancies. In some very sad cases (not often) a ruptured fallopian tube can be fatal.

It may be that you were operated on straight away when alternatives to surgery were available. This could mean that you have suffered an unnecessary operation. One way of managing an ectopic pregnancy without surgery is with methotrexate. If your pregnancy hormone score is under 3000 there is a good chance you may be offered methotrexate in the first instance rather than surgery.

Generally, fewer women are suitable for medical management. The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists Guidelines say that a variety of medical treatments are as effective as surgery. If you have not received any medical management prior to an operation but it was suitable for you, there may be a case to answer. It depends on whether you would have needed the operation in any event.

If you, or anyone you know has suffered and ectopic pregnancy and you have questions about this we will be happy to talk to you free of charge on 0114 218 4000 to determine whether you have a claim.

Suzanne Atter

Suzanne is a trainee legal executive in the clinical negligence department. She handles new enquiries and prepares letters of complaint on behalf of patients and their carers who wish to pursue a complaint about their medical treatment or care. She also assists the solicitors with their cases where necessary. For more information on this topic email or call her on 0114 218 4129.

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