Physicians May Misdiagnose Normal Pregnancies as Ectopic

Physicians May Misdiagnose Normal Pregnancies as EctopicA new study found that a group of women with normal pregnancies who were wrongly diagnosed as ectopic and were treated for the condition with methotrexate in the early stages of pregnancy either miscarried or gave birth to a severely deformed baby, HealthDay reports.

According to the National Library of Medicine, an ectopic pregnancy is an abnormal form of pregnancy that occurs outside the womb. In such a case, the baby cannot survive, and often does not develop at all. The drug methotrexate, which is used to treat rheumatoid arthritis and some cancers, has also shown to be dangerous to new fetuses and can end an ectopic pregnancy.

The researchers, who are affiliated with the Organization of Teratology Information Specialists (OTIS), stated their findings highlight an even bigger problem – that more effective tools must be developed to properly determine if a pregnancy is ectopic.

"This report describes a subset of cases that occur in the general population and it suggests that this misdiagnosis is not limited to one center or one part of the United States or Canada," Sharon Lavigne, study co-author and coordinator of OTIS' Connecticut affiliate, said in a news release. "There are likely many more of these scenarios out there that our services never hear about."

The team analyzed eight North American women with normal pregnancies that were wrongly diagnosed as ectopic. The women were given high doses of methotrexate for the condition, which the researchers say resulted in miscarriage, termination of the pregnancy or severely deformed babies. In conclusion, the scientists noted more accurate measures are needed to diagnose and treat ectopic pregnancy.

"This is a challenging diagnosis, and efforts to accurately locate the pregnancy in suspected early ectopic pregnancies would benefit from improved diagnostic tools," said study co-author Myla Moretti, assistant director of Motherisk, OTIS' Canadian affiliate.