Management of incomplete abortion in South African public hospitals

H C Brown, R Jewkes, J Levin, K Dickson-Tetteh, H Rees
BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology 2003, 110 (4): 371-7

OBJECTIVE: To describe the current management of incomplete abortion in South African public hospitals and to discuss the extent to which management is clinically appropriate.

DESIGN: A multicentre, prospective descriptive study.

SETTING: South African public hospitals that manage gynaecological emergencies.

SAMPLE: Hospitals were selected using a stratified random sampling method. All women who presented to the above sampled hospitals with incomplete abortion during the three week data collection period in 2000 were included.

METHODS: A data collection sheet was completed at the time of discharge for each woman admitted with a diagnosis of incomplete, complete, missed or inevitable abortion during the study period. Information gathered included demographic data, clinical signs and symptoms at admission, medical management, surgical management, anaestetic management, use of blood products and antibiotics and complications. Three clinical severity categories were used for the purpose of data analysis and interpretation.

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Detail of medical management, detail of surgical management, use of blood products and antibiotics, methods of analgesia and anaesthesia used, and use of abortifacients.

RESULTS: There is a trend towards low cost technology such as the use of manual vacuum aspiration and sedation anaesthesia; however, this is mainly limited to the better resourced tertiary hospitals linked to academic units. The use of antibiotics and blood products has decreased but much of the use is inappropriate. The use of abortifacients does include some use of misoprostol but merely as an adjunct to surgical evacuation.

CONCLUSIONS: The management of incomplete abortion remains a problem in South Africa, a low income country that is still managing a common clinical problem with costly interventions. The evidence of a trend towards low cost technology is promising, albeit limited to tertiary centres. This study has given us information as how to best address this problem. More training in low cost methods is needed, targeting in particular the district and regional hospitals, and reinforced by skills training focussed mainly on undergraduates and midwife post-abortion care programmes.

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