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Ectopic Pregnancy

One of the most serious errors made in obstetrics and gynecology is a delay in diagnosis of ectopic pregnancy. An ectopic pregnancy occurs when the fertilized egg implants somewhere other than the uterus, usually in the fallopian tubes. There may be a delay in diagnosis of ectopic pregnancy due to the fact that many women with ectopic pregnancy will continue to menstruate and may not realize that they are pregnant and fail to see a doctor. Possible consequences resulting from a delay in diagnosis of ectopic pregnancy include infection, damage to the reproductive organs, infertility, and death. In fact, delay in diagnosis of ectopic pregnancy is the number one cause of death for women in their first trimester of pregnancy.

To avoid delay in diagnosis of ectopic pregnancy, women who suspect that they may be experiencing an ectopic pregnancy should immediately seek a medical opinion. Some symptoms of ectopic pregnancy include vaginal bleeding, shoulder pain, abdominal pain, and weakness or dizziness. There is an increased risk of ectopic pregnancy among women who have previous ectopic pregnancies, infertility, pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), previous tubal ligation, or an intrauterine device in place.

An untreated ectopic pregnancy will almost invariably end in the rupture of the fallopian tube, leading to lethal infection/hemorrhaging. Any delay in diagnosis of ectopic pregnancy increases the risk of death or permanent injury, and complicates the patient's treatment. Generally, once pregnancy has been confirmed, the patient will undergo an ultrasound or a laparoscopy to determine the location of the fetus. A minimal amount of time should pass between the pregnancy test results and the ultrasound, to prevent a delay in diagnosis of ectopic pregnancy. If the fetus is found not to be in the uterus, the patient will usually immediately undergo treatment, which can be either chemical or surgical. Barring any excessive delay in diagnosis of ectopic pregnancy, the treatment should proceed without complications.

If you or a loved one has suffered from a delay in diagnosis of ectopic pregnancy, you may wish to speak to an attorney about your legal rights. A lawyer with experience representing persons harmed by a delay in diagnosis of ectopic pregnancy might be able to help you understand your options and to choose an appropriate course of action.

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