What is an ectopic pregnancy, and why is it dangerous?
An ectopic pregnancy is potentially life threatening.
By definitition, an ectopic pregnancy is one that is outside of the uterus. Why is it life threatening? In order to answer the question, it is important to learn where a normal pregnancy is supposed to be.
When fertilization occurs, the fertilized egg makes its' way to the uterus where it embeds itself for the next nine months. The uterus will provide shelter, food and nutrients. In some cases, the fertilized egg does not make its' way into the uterus, and instead winds up lodged within the fallopian tube. When that happens the egg will embed itself in the tissues of the fallopian tube and start to grow.
Well, when that egg starts to grow in a tiny narrow tube that is not meant to accomodate a growing baby, the potential for disaster and life threatening illness arises. Often, a woman will experience bleeding, back pain, flank pain, and continued elevated blood serum pregnancy levels (known as Beta Hcg levels). Rising levels generally indicate the pregnancy is ongoing and continuing.
When an ectopic pregnancy is suspected, the physician will generally want to examine the patient every other day, and also obtain "serial Hcg" levels in order to evaluate whether the pregnancy hormone levels are increasing, decreasing or staying level. This will assist the physician in determining whether the pregnancy is active. A sonogram after about the 7th week of gestation can usually determine if the pregnancy is within the uterus. If the pregnancy hormone levels are increasing, and the pregnancy is not within the uterus, and the patient is experiencing symptoms, a higher level of suspicion must be entertained that the patient is suffering from an ectopic pregnancy.
The key question is when does the surgeon intervene before the fallopian tube ruptures? A ruptured ectopic can cause catastrophic internal bleeding causing death within minutes. When to operate? If an operation is performed early, can the fallopian tube be saved? Can the ectopic pregnancy be excised from the tube and the tube put back together? Or will the entire tube have to be removed? If the pregnancy is only removed, and the tube is reconstructed, will your fertility chances diminish? If your fallopian tube is removed, will your fertility be affected?
All of these questions are valid and require an expert gynecologist to fully answer them.
Often times, in failure to diagnose ectopic pregnancy cases in New York, the patient will have symptoms that should suggest to the doctor the likelihood of an ectopic pregnancy. It is important for your medical malpractice attorney to look carefully at the medical records to determine what complaints, if any, you made to your doctor or hospital emergency room, and whether those comlpaints were recognized or ignored. Did the doctor recognize the possiblity that you might have an ectopic? Or was it not on the radar screen? These are important factors to look at when evaluating a potential case.