The utility of transvaginal ultrasound in the ED evaluation of complications of first trimester pregnancy

Nova L Panebianco, Frances Shofer, J Matthew Fields, Kenton Anderson, Alessandro Mangili, Asako C Matsuura, Anthony J Dean
American Journal of Emergency Medicine 2015, 33 (6): 743-8

BACKGROUND: For patients with early intrauterine pregnancy (IUP), the sonographic signs of the gestation may be below the resolution of transabdominal ultrasound (TAU); however, it may be identified by transvaginal ultrasound (TVU). We sought to determine how often TVU performed in the emergency department (ED) reveals a viable IUP after a nondiagnostic ED TAU and the impact of ED TVU on patient length of stay (LOS).

METHODS: This was a retrospective cohort study of women presenting to our ED with complications of early pregnancy from January 1, 2007 to February 28, 2009 in a single urban adult ED. Abstractors recorded clinical and imaging data in a database. Patient imaging modality and results were recorded and compared with respect to ultrasound (US) findings and LOS.

RESULTS: Of 2429 subjects identified, 795 required TVU as part of their care. Emergency department TVU was performed in 528 patients, and 267 went to radiology (RAD). Emergency department TVU identified a viable IUP in 261 patients (49.6%). Patients having initial ED US had shorter LOS than patients with initial RAD US (median 4.0 vs 6.0 hours; P < .001). Emergency department LOS was shorter for women who had ED TVU performed compared with those sent for RAD TVU regardless of the findings of the US (median 4.9 vs 6.7 hours; P < .001). There was no increased LOS for patients who needed further RAD US after an indeterminate ED TVU (7.0 vs 7.1 hours; P = .43). There was no difference in LOS for those who had a viable IUP confirmed on ED TAU vs ED (median 3.1 vs 3.2 hours, respectively; P < .32).

CONCLUSION: When an ED TVU was performed, a viable IUP was detected 49.6% of the time. Emergency department LOS was significantly shorter for women who received ED TVU after indeterminate ED TAU compared with those sent to RAD for TVU, with more marked time savings among those with live IUP diagnosed on ED TVU. For patients who do not receive a definitive diagnosis of IUP on ED TVU, this approach does not result in increased LOS.

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