A randomized comparison of medical abortion and surgical vacuum aspiration at 10-13 weeks gestation

Premila W Ashok, Avril Kidd, Gillian M M Flett, Ann Fitzmaurice, Wendy Graham, Allan Templeton
Human Reproduction 2002, 17 (1): 92-8

BACKGROUND: Since 1991, mifepristone in combination with a prostaglandin analogue has been licensed for termination of pregnancy in the UK at up to 9 weeks amenorrhoea, and since 1995, beyond 13 weeks. Surgical methods are used almost exclusively at 10-13 weeks amenorrhoea.

METHODS: A patient-centred, partially randomized, controlled trial was carried out. Those who expressed a strong preference for either medical (n = 15) or surgical (n = 62) abortion were allocated to that method. The remainder agreed to be randomized. The medical method (n = 188) was mifepristone 200 mg followed by misoprostol up to 3 doses, and surgery (n = 180) was by vacuum aspiration under general anaesthesia. Outcome measures included efficacy rates, medical complications within 8 weeks of the procedure, patient preferences and acceptability.

RESULTS: Among women who underwent medical abortion, 5.4% required a second procedure compared with 2.1% who had surgery, although this difference was not statistically significant. Side effects experienced were higher in women who underwent medical abortion compared with those who underwent surgery. There were no significant differences in the rates of major complications up to 8 weeks. Prior to termination, 80% of women had a preference for a method, with 72% preferring medical and 28% preferring surgical abortion. Following abortion, 70% of those who underwent medical termination and 79% who underwent surgery would opt for the same method in the future.

CONCLUSION: Medical abortion is safe and effective at 10-13 weeks gestation and should be considered an option for those women who wish to avoid surgery and anaesthesia.

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