EARLY MEDICAL ABORTION – Efficacy and safety of very early medical termination of pregnancy: a cohort study

by I Bizjak, C Fiala, L Berggren, H Hognert, I Sääv, J Bring, K Gemzell-Danielsson

BJOG, 2017;124(13/Dec): 1993–99   DOI: 10.1111/1471-0528.14904



To assess the efficacy and safety of medical termination of pregnancy (MTOP) when no intrauterine pregnancy (IUP) is confirmed on ultrasound.

Design and setting

Retrospective case-note review. Two gynaecological clinics in Vienna, Austria, and Gothenburg, Sweden.


All women with gestations of ≤49 days undergoing an MTOP during 2004–14 (Vienna) and 2012–15 (Gothenburg).

Methods and main outcome measures

Two study cohorts were created: women with and women without a confirmed IUP. An IUP was defined as the intrauterine location of a yolk sac or fetal structure visible by ultrasound. Women with an IUP were selected randomly and included in the IUP cohort. Efficacy of MTOP, defined as no continuing pregnancy and with no need of surgery for incomplete TOP.


After excluding 11 women diagnosed with an extra-uterine or molar pregnancy, 2643 cases were included in the final analysis; 1120 (98.2%) had a successful TOP in the no-IUP group, compared with 1458 (97.1%) in the IUP group, with a risk difference of 1.09% (95% confidence interval, 95% CI, −0.14, 2.32%; P = 0.077). Significantly more women with confirmed IUP were diagnosed with incomplete TOP, and were treated with either surgery or additional medical treatment of misoprostol [64 (4.3%) versus 21 (1.8%); risk difference −2.42%; 95% CI −3.9, −1.1%; < 0.001].


There was no difference between the groups in efficacy of MTOP, whereas early treatment resulted in significantly fewer interventions for incomplete TOP. The risk of ectopic pregnancy needs to be considered if treatment is initiated before an IUP is confirmed, but with structured clinical protocols the possibility of the early detection of an ectopic pregnancy in an asymptomatic phase may increase.