Episode 24 – First Trimester Pregnancy Emergencies: Recognition and Management

Jeff: Welcome back to Emplify, the podcast corollary to EB Medicine’s Emergency Medicine Practice. I’m Jeff Nusbaum, and I’m back with my co-host, Nachi Gupta. This month, we’re talking about a topic…

Nachi: … woah wait, slow down for a minute, before we begin this month’s episode – we should take a quick pause to wish all of our listeners a happy new year! Thanks for your regular listenership and feedback.

Jeff: And we’re actually hitting the two year mark since we started this podcast. At 25 episodes now, this is sort of our silver anniversary.

Nachi: We have covered a ton of topics in emergency medicine so far, and we are looking forward to reviewing a lot more evidence based medicine with you all going forward.

Jeff: With that, let’s get into the first episode of 2019 – the topic this month is first trimester pregnancy emergencies: recognition and management.

Nachi: This month’s issue was authored by Dr. Ryan Pedigo, you may remember him from the June 2017 episode on dental emergencies, though he is perhaps better known as the director of undergraduate medical education at Harbor-UCLA Medical center. In addition, this issue was peer reviewed by Dr. Jennifer Beck-Esmay, assistant residency director at Mount Sinai St. Luke’s, and Dr. Taku Taira, the associate director of undergraduate medical education and associate clerkship director at LA County and USC department of Emergency Medicine.

Jeff: For this review, Dr. Pedigo had to review a large body of literature, including thousands of articles, guidelines from the American college of obstetricians and gynecologists or ACOG, evidence based Practice bulletins, ACOG committee opinions, guidelines from the American college of radiology, the infectious diseases society of America, clinical policies from the American college of emergency physicians, and finally a series of reviews in the Cochrane database.

Nachi: There is a wealth of literature on this topic and Dr. Pedigo comments that the relevant literature is overall “very good.” This may be the first article in many months for which there is an overall very good quality of literature.

Jeff: It’s great to know that there is good literature on this topic. It’s incredibly important as we are not dealing with a single life here, as we usually do… we are quite literally dealing with potentially two lives as the fetus moves towards viability. With opportunities to improve outcomes for both the fetus and the mother, I’m confident that this episode will be worth your time.

Nachi: Oh, and speaking of being worth your time…. Don’t forget that if you’re listening to this episode, you can claim your CME credit. Remember, the indicates an answer to one of the CME questions so make sure to keep the issue handy.

Jeff: Let’s get started with some background. First trimester emergencies are not terribly uncommon in pregnancy. One study reported 85% experience nausea and vomiting. Luckily only 3% of these progressed to hyperemesis gravidarum. In addition, somewhere between 7-27% experience vaginal bleeding or miscarriage. Only 2% of these will be afflicted with an ectopic pregnancy. Overall, the maternal death rate is about 17 per 100,000 with huge racial-ethnic disparities.

Nachi: And vaginal bleeding in pregnancy occurs in nearly 25% of patients. Weeks 4-8 represent the peak time for this. The heavier the bleeding, the higher the risk of miscarriage.

Jeff: Miscarriage rates vary widely based on age, with an overall rate of 7-27%. This rises to nearly 40% risk in those over 40. And nearly half of miscarriages are due to fetal chromosomal abnormalities.

Nachi: For patient who have a threatened miscarriage in the first trimester, there is a 2-fold increased risk of subsequent maternal and fetal adverse outcomes.

Jeff: So key points here, since I think the wording and information you choose to share with often scared and worried women is important – nearly 25% of women experience bleeding in their first trimester. Not all of these will go on to miscarriages, though the risk does increase with maternal age. And of those that miscarry, nearly 50% were due to fetal chromosomal abnormalities.

Nachi: So can we prevent a miscarriage, once the patient is bleeding…?

Jeff: Short answer, no, longer answer, we’ll get to treatment in a few minutes. For now, let’s continue outlining the various first trimester emergencies. Next up, ectopic pregnancy…

Nachi: An ectopic pregnancy is implantation of a fertilized ovum outside of the endometrial cavity. This occurs in up to 2% of pregnancies. About 98% occur in the fallopian tube. Risk factors for an ectopic pregnancy include salpingitis, history of STDs, history of PID, a prior ectopic, and smoking.

Jeff: Interestingly, with respect to smoking, there is a dose-relationship between smoking and ectopic pregnancies. Simple advice here: don’t smoke if you are pregnant or trying to get pregnant.

Nachi: Pretty sound advice. In addition, though an IUD is not a risk factor for an ectopic pregnancy, if you do become pregnant while you have in IUD in place, over half of these may end up being ectopic.

Jeff: It’s also worth mentioning a more obscure related disease pathology here – the heterotopic pregnancy — one in which there is an IUP and an ectopic pregnancy simultaneously.

Nachi: Nausea and vomiting, though not as scary as miscarriages or an ectopic pregnancy, represent a fairly common pathophysiologic response in the first trimester — with the vast majority of women experiencing nausea and vomiting. And as we mentioned earlier, only 3% of these progress to hyperemesis gravidarum.

Jeff: And while nausea and vomiting clearly sucks, they seem to actually be protective of pregnancy loss, with a hazard ratio of 0.2.

Nachi: Although this may be protective of pregnancy loss, nausea and vomiting can really decrease the quality of life in pregnancy — with one study showing that about 25% of women with severe nausea and vomiting had actually considered pregnancy termination. 75% of those women also stated they would not want to get pregnant again because of these symptoms.

Jeff: So certainly a big issue.. Two other common first trimester emergency are asymptomatic bacteriuria and UTIs. In pregnant patients, due to anatomical and physiologic changes in the GU tract – such as hydroureteronephrosis that occurs by the 7th week and urinary stasis due to bladder displacement – asymptomatic bacteriuria is a risk factor for developing pyelonephritis.

Nachi: And pregnant women are, of course, still susceptible to the normal ailments of young adult women like acute appendicitis, which is the most common surgical problem in pregnancy.

Jeff: Interestingly, based on epidemiologic data, pregnant women are less likely to have appendicitis than age-matched non-pregnant woman. I’d like to think that there is a good pathophysiologic explanation there, but I don’t have a clue as to why that might be.

Nachi: Additionally, the RLQ is the the most common location of pain from appendicitis in pregnancies of all gestational ages. Peritonitis is actually slightly more common in pregnant patients, with an odds ratio of 1.3.

Jeff: Alright, so I think we can put that intro behind us and move on to the differential.

Nachi: When considering the differential for abdominal pain or vaginal bleeding in the first trimester, you have to think broadly. Among gynecologic causes, you should consider miscarriage, septic abortion, ectopic pregnancy, corpus luteum cyst, ovarian torsion, vaginal or cervical lacerations, and PID. For non-gynecologic causes, you should also consider appendicitis, cholecystitis, hepatitis, and pyelonephritis.

Jeff: In the middle of that laundry list you mentioned there is one pathology which I think merits special attention – ovarian torsion. Don’t forget that patients undergoing ovarian stimulation as part of assisted reproductive technology are at a particularly increased risk due to the larger size of the ovaries.

Nachi: Great point. Up next we have prehospital care…

Jeff: Always a great section. First, prehospital providers should attempt to elicit an ob history. Including the number of weeks’ gestation, LMP, whether an IUP has already been confirmed, prior hx of ectopic, and amount of vaginal bleeding. In addition, providers should consider an early destination consult both to select the correct destination and to begin the process of mobilizing resources early in those patients who really need them, such as those with hemodynamic instability.

Nachi: As with most pathologies, the more time you give the receiving facility to prepare, the better the care will be, especially the early care, which is critical.

Jeff: Now that the patient has arrived in the ED we can begin our H&P.

Nachi: When eliciting the patient’s obstetrical history, it’s common to use the G’s and Ps. This can be further annotated using the 4-digit TPAL method, that’s term-preterm-abortus-living.

Jeff: With respect to vaginal bleeding, make sure to ask about the number of pads and how this relates to the woman’s normal number of pads. In addition, make sure to ask about vaginal discharge or even about the passage of tissue.

Nachi: You will also need to elicit whether or not the patient has a history of a prior ectopic pregnancies as this is a major risk for future ectopics. And ask about previous sexually transmitted infections also.

Jeff: And, of course, make sure to elicit a history of assisted reproductive technology, as this increases the risk of a heterotopic pregnancy.

Nachi: Let’s move on to the physical. While you are certainly going to perform your standard focused physical exam, just as you would for any non-pregnant woman – what does the evidence say about the pelvic exam? I know this is a HOTLY debated topic among EM Docs.

Jeff: Oh it certainly is. Dr. Pedigo takes a safe, but fair approach, noting, “A pelvic exam should always be performed if the emergency clinician suspects that it would change management, such as identifying the source of bleeding, or identifying an STD or PID.” However, it is noteworthy that the only real study he cites on this topic, an RCT of pelvic vs no pelvic in those with a confirmed IUP and first trimester bleeding, found no difference between the two groups. Obviously, the pelvic group reported more discomfort.

Nachi: You did leave out one important fact about the study enrollment – they only enrolled about 200 of 700 intended patients.

Jeff: Oh true, so a possibly underpowered study, but it’s all we’ve got on the topic. I think I’m still going to do pelvic exams, but it’s something to think about.

Nachi: Moving on, all unstable patients with vaginal bleeding and no IUP should be assumed to have an ectopic until proven otherwise. Ruptured ectopics can manifest with a number of physical exam findings including abdominal tenderness, with peritoneal signs, or even with bradycardia due to vagal stimulation in the peritoneum.

Jeff: Perhaps most importantly, no history or physical alone can rule in or out an ectopic pregnancy, for that you’ll need testing and imaging or operative findings.

Nachi: And that’s a perfect segue into our next section – diagnostic studies.

Jeff: Up first is the urine pregnancy test. A UPT should be obtained in all women of reproductive age with abdominal pain or vaginal bleeding, and likely other complaints too, though we’re not focusing on them now.

Nachi: The UPT is a great test, with nearly 100% sensitivity, even in the setting of very dilute urine. False positives are certainly plausible, with likely culprits being recent pregnancy loss, exogenous HCG, or malignancy.

Jeff: And not only is the sensitivity great, but it’s usually positive just 6-8 days after fertilization.

Nachi: While the UPT is fairly straight forward, let’s talk about the next few tests in the context of specific disease entities, as I think that may make things a bit simpler — starting with bHCG in the context of miscarriage and ectopic pregnancy.

Jeff: Great starting point since there is certainly a lot of debate about the discriminatory zone. So to get us all on the same page, the discriminatory zone is the b-HCG at which an IUP is expected to be seen on ultrasound. Generally 1500 is used as the cutoff. This corresponds nicely to a 2013 retrospective study demonstrating a bHCG threshold for the fetal pole to be just below 1400.

Nachi: However, to actually catch 99% of gestational sacs, yolk sacs, and fetal poles, one would need cutoffs of around 3500, 18000, and 48,000 respectively — much higher.

Jeff: For this reason, if you want to use a discriminatory zone, ACOG recommends a conservatively high 3,500, as a cutoff.

Nachi: I think that’s an understated point in this article, the classic teaching of a 1500 discriminatory zone cutoff is likely too low.

Jeff: Right, which is why I think many ED physicians practice under the mantra that it’s an ectopic until proven otherwise.

Nachi: Certainly a safe approach.

Jeff: Along those lines, lack of an IUP with a bHCG above whatever discriminatory zone you are using does not diagnose an ectopic, it merely suggests a non-viable pregnancy of undetermined location.

Nachi: And if you don’t identify an IUP, serial bHCGs can be really helpful. As a rule of thumb — in cases of a viable IUP — b-HCG typically doubles within 48 hours and at a minimum should rise 53%.

Jeff: In perhaps one of the most concerning things I’ve read in awhile, one study showed that ⅓ of patients with an ectopic had a bCHG rise of 53% in 48h and 20% of patients with ectopics had a rate of decline typical to that of a miscarriage.

Nachi: Definitely concerning, but this is all the more reason you need to employ our favorite imaging modality… the ultrasound.

Jeff: All patients with a positive pregnancy test and vaginal bleeding should receive an ultrasound performed by either an emergency physician or by radiology. Combined with a pelvic exam, this can give you almost all the data necessary to make the diagnosis, even if you don’t find an IUP.

Nachi: And yes, there is good data to support ED ultrasound for this indication, both transabdominal and transvaginal, assuming the emergency physician is credentialed to do so. A 2010 Meta-Analysis found a NPV of 99.96% when an er doc identified an IUP on bedside ultrasound. So keep doing your bedside scans with confidence.

Jeff: Before we move on to other diagnostic tests, let’s discuss table 2 on page 7 to refresh on key findings of each of the different types of miscarriage. For a threatened abortion, the os would be closed with an IUP seen on ultrasound. For a completed abortion, you would expect a closed OS with no IUP on ultrasound with a previously documented IUP. Patients may or may not note the passage of products of conception.

Nachi: A missed abortion presents with a closed os and a nonviable fetus on ultrasound. Findings such as a crown-rump length of 7 mm or greater without cardiac motion is one of several criteria to support this diagnosis.

Jeff: An inevitable abortion presents with an open OS and an IUP on ultrasound. Along similar lines, an incomplete abortion presents with an open OS and partially expelled products on ultrasound.

Nachi: And lastly, we have the septic abortion, which is sort of in a category of its own. A septic abortion presents with either an open or closed OS with essentially any finding on ultrasound in the setting of an intrauterine infection and a fever.

Jeff: I’ve only seen this two times, and both women were incredibly sick upon presentation. Such a sad situation.

Nachi: For sure. Before we move on to other tests, one quick note on the topic of heterotopic pregnancies: because the risk in the general population is so incredibly low, the finding of an IUP essentially rules out an ectopic pregnancy assuming the patient hasn’t been using assisted reproductive technology. In those that are using assisted reproductive technology, the risk rises to 1 in 100, so finding an IUP, in this case, doesn’t necessarily rule out a heterotopic pregnancy.

Jeff: Let’s move on to diagnostic studies for patients with nausea and vomiting. Typically, no studies are indicated beyond whatever you would order to rule out other serious pathology. Checking electrolytes and repleting them should be considered in those with severe symptoms.

Nachi: For those with symptoms suggestive of a UTI, a urinalysis and culture should be sent. Even if the urinalysis is negative, the culture may still have growth. Treat asymptomatic bacteriuria and allow the culture growth to guide changes in antibiotic selection.

Jeff: It’s worth noting, however, that a 2016 systematic review found no reliable evidence supporting routine screening for asymptomatic bacteriuria, so send a urinalysis and culture only if there is suspicion for a UTI.

Nachi: For those with concern for appendicitis, while ultrasound is a viable imaging modality, MRI is gaining favor. Both are specific tests, however one study found US to visualize the appendix only 7% of the time in pregnant patients.

Jeff: Even more convincingly, one 2016 meta analysis found MRI to have a sensitivity and specificity of 94 and 97% respectively suggesting that a noncontrast MRI should be the first line imaging modality for potential appendicitis.

Nachi: You kind of snuck it in there, but this is specifically a non-contrast MRI. Whereas a review of over a million pregnancies found no associated fetal risk with routine non-contrast MRI, gadolinium-enhanced MRI has been associated with increased rates of stillbirth, neonatal death, and rheumatologic and inflammatory skin conditions.

Jeff: CT is also worth mentioning since MRI and even ultrasound may not be available to all of our listeners. If you do find yourself in such a predicament, or you have an inconclusive US without MRI available, a CT scan may be warranted as the delay in diagnosis and subsequent peritonitis has been found to increase the risk of preterm birth 4-fold.

Nachi: Right, and a single dose of ionizing radiation actually does not exceed the threshold dose for fetal harm.

Jeff: Let’s talk about the Rh status and prevention of alloimmunization. While there are no well-designed studies demonstrating benefit to administering anti-D immune globulin to Rh negative patients, ACOG guidelines state “ whether to administer anti-D immune globulin to a patient with threatened pregnancy loss and a live embryo or fetus at or before 12 weeks of gestation is controversial, and no evidence-based recommendation can be made.”

Nachi: Unfortunately, that’s not particularly helpful for us. But if you are going to treat an unsensitized Rh negative female with vaginal bleeding while pregnant with Rh-immune globulin, they should receive 50 mcg IM of Rh-immune globulin within 72 hours, or the 300 mcg dose if that is all that is available. It’s also reasonable to administer Rh(d)-immune globulin to any pregnant female with significant abdominal trauma.

Jeff: Moving on to the treatment for miscarriages – sadly there isn’t much to offer here. For those with threatened abortions, the vast majority will go on to a normal pregnancy. Bedrest had been recommended in the past, but there is little data to support this practice.

Nachi: For incomplete miscarriages, if visible, products should be removed and you should consider sending those products to pathology for analysis, especially if the patient has had recurrent miscarriages.

Jeff: For those with a missed abortion or incomplete miscarriages, options include expectant management, medical management or surgical management, all in consultation with an obstetrician. It’s noteworthy that a 2012 Cochrane review failed to find clear superiority for one strategy over another. This result was for the most part re-confirmed in a 2017 cochrane review. The latter study did find, however, that surgical management in the stable patient resulted in lower rates of incomplete miscarriage, bleeding, and need for transfusion.

Nachi: For expectant management, 50-80% will complete their miscarriage within 7-10 days.

Jeff: For those choosing medical management, typically with 800 mcg of intravaginal misoprostol, one study found this to be 91% effective in 7 days. This approach is preferred in low-resource settings.

Nachi: And lastly, remember that all of these options are only options for stable patients. Surgical management is mandatory for patients with significant hemorrhage or hemodynamic instability.

Jeff: Since the best evidence we have doesn’t suggest a crystal clear answer, you should rely on the patient’s own preferences and a discussion with their obstetrician. For this reason and due to the inherent difficulty of losing a pregnancy, having good communication is paramount.

Nachi: Expert consensus recommends 6 key aspects of appropriate communication in such a setting: 1

assess the meaning of the pregnancy loss,

give the news in a culturally competent and supportive manner,

inform the family that grief is to be expected and give them permission to grieve in their own way,

learn to be comfortable sharing the products of conception should the woman wish to see them,

5. provide support for whatever path she chooses,

6. and provide resources for grief counselors and support groups.

Jeff: All great advice. The next treatment to discuss is that for pregnancy of an unknown location and ectopic pregnancies.

Nachi: All unstable patients or those with suspected or proven ectopic or heterotopic pregnancies should be immediately resuscitated and taken for surgical intervention.

Jeff: For those that are stable, with normal vitals, and no ultrasound evidence of a ruptured ectopic, with no IUP on ultrasound, — that is, those with a pregnancy of unknown location, they should be discharged with follow up in 48 hours for repeat betaHCG and ultrasound.

Nachi: And while many patients only need a single additional beta check, some may need repeat 48 hour exams until a diagnosis is established.

Jeff: For those that are stable with a confirmed tubal ectopic, you again have a variety of treatment options, none being clearly superior.

Nachi: Treatment options here include IM methotrexate, or a salpingostomy or salpingectomy.

Jeff: Do note, however, that a bHCG over 5000, cardiac activity on US, and inability to follow up are all relative contraindications to methotrexate treatment. Absolute contraindications to methotrexate include cytopenia, active pulmonary disease, active peptic ulcer disease, hepatic or renal dysfunction, and breastfeeding.

Nachi: Such decisions, should, of course, be made in conjunction with the obstetrician.

Jeff: Always good to make a plan with the ob. Moving on to the treatment of nausea and vomiting in pregnancy, ACOG recommends pyridoxine, 10-25 mg orally q8-q6 with or without doxylamine 12.5 mg PO BID or TID. This is a level A recommendation as first-line treatment!

Nachi: In addition, ACOG also recommends nonpharmacologic options such as acupressure at the P6 point on the wrist with a wrist band. Ginger is another nonpharmacologic intervention that has been shown to be efficacious – 250 mg by mouth 4 times a day.

Jeff: So building an algorithm, step one would be to consider ginger and pressure at the P6 point. Step two would be pyridoxine and doxylamine. If all of these measures fail, step three would be IV medication – with 10 mg IV of metoclopramide being the agent of choice.

Nachi: By the way, ondansetron carries a very small risk of fetal cardiac abnormalities, so the other options are of course preferred.

Jeff: In terms of fluid choice for the actively vomiting first trimester woman, both D5NS and NS are appropriate choices, with slightly decreased nausea in the group receiving D5NS in one randomized trial of pregnant patients admitted for vomiting to an overnight observation unit.

Nachi: Up next for treatment we have asymptomatic bacteriuria. As we stated previously, asymptomatic bacteriuria should be treated. This is due to anatomical and physiologic changes which put these women at higher risk than non-pregnant women.

Jeff: And this recommendation comes from the 2005 IDSA guidelines. In one trial, treatment of those with asymptomatic bacteriuria with nitrofurantoin reduced the incidence of developing pyelonephritis from 2.4% to 0.6%.

Nachi: And this trial specifically examined the utility of nitrofurantoin. Per a 2010 and 2011 Cochrane review, there is not evidence to recommend one antibiotic over another, so let your local antibiograms guide your treatment.

Jeff: In general, amoxicillin or cephalexin for a full 7 day course could also be perfectly appropriate.

Nachi: A 2017 ACOG Committee Opinion analyzed nitrofurantoin and sulfonamide antibiotics for association with birth defects. Although safe in the second and third trimester, they recommend use in the first trimester — only when no other suitable alternatives are available.

Jeff: For those, who unfortunately do go on to develop pyelo, 1g IV ceftriaxone should be your drug of choice. Interestingly, groups have examined outpatient care with 2 days of daily IM ceftriaxone vs inpatient IV antibiotic therapy and they found that there may be a higher than acceptable risk in the outpatient setting as several required eventual admission and one developed septic shock in their relatively small trial.

Nachi: And the last treatment to discuss is for pregnant patient with acute appendicitis. Despite a potential shift in the standard of care for non pregnant patients towards antibiotics-only as the initial treatment, due to the increased risk of serious complications for pregnant women with an acute appy, the best current evidence supports a surgical pathway.

Jeff: Perfect, so that wraps up treatment. We have a few special considerations this month, the first of which revolves around ionizing radiation. Ideally, one should limit the amount of ionizing radiation exposure during pregnancy, however avoiding it all together may lead to missed or delayed diagnoses and subsequently worse outcomes.

Nachi: It’s worth noting that the American College of Radiology actually lists several radiographs that are such low exposure that checking a urine pregnancy test isn’t even necessary. These include any imaging of the head and neck, extremity CT, and chest x-ray.

Jeff: Of course, an abdomen and pelvis CT carries the greatest potential risk. However, if necessary, it’s certainly appropriate as long as there is a documented discussion of the risk and benefits with the patient.

Nachi: And regarding iodinated contrast for CT — it appears to present no known harm to the fetus, but this is based on limited data. ACOG recommends using contrast only if “absolutely required”.

Jeff: Right and that’s for iodinated contrasts. Gadolinium should always be avoided. Let me repeat that Gadolinium should always be avoided

Nachi: Let’s also briefly touch on a controversial topic — that of using qualitative urine point of care tests with blood instead of urine. In short, some devices are fda-approved for serum, but not whole blood. Clinicians really just need to know the equipment and characteristics at their own site. It is worth noting that there have been studies on determining whether time can be saved by using point of care blood testing instead of urine for the patient who is unable to provide a prompt sample. Initial study conclusions are promising. But again, you need to know the characteristics of the test at your ER.

Jeff: One more controversy in this issue is that of expectant management for ectopic pregnancy. A 2015 randomized trial found similar outcomes for IM methotrexate compared to placebo for tubal ectopics. Inclusion criteria included hemodynamic stability, initial b hcg < 2000, declining b hcg titers 48 hours prior to treatment, and visible tubal pregnancy on trans vaginal ultrasound. Another 2017 multicenter randomized trial found similar results.

Nachi: But of course all of these decisions should be made in conjunction with your obstetrician colleagues.

Jeff: Let’s move on to disposition. HDS patients who are well-appearing with a pregnancy of undetermined location should be discharged with a 48h beta hcg recheck and ultrasound. All hemodynamically unstable patients, should of course be admitted and likely taken directly to the OR.

Nachi: Also, all pregnant patients with acute pyelonephritis require admission. Outpatient tx could be considered in consultation with ob.

Jeff: Patient with hyperemesis gravidarum who do not improve despite treatment in the ED should also be admitted.

Nachi: Before we close out the episode, let’s go over some key points and clinical pearls…

J Overall, roughly 25% of pregnant women will experience vaginal bleeding and 7-27% of pregnant women will experience a miscarriage

2. Becoming pregnant with an IUD significantly raises the risk of ectopic pregnancy.

3. Ovarian stimulation as part of assisted reproductive technology places pregnant women at increased risk of ovarian torsion.

4. Due to anatomical and physiologic changes in the genitourinary tract, asymptomatic bacteriuria places pregnant women at higher risk for pyelonephritis. As such, treat asymptomatic bacteriuria according to local antibiograms.

5. A pelvic exam in the setting of first trimester bleeding is only warranted if you suspect it might change management.

6. Unstable patients with vaginal bleeding and no IUP should be assumed to have an ectopic pregnancy until proven otherwise.

7. If you are to use a discriminatory zone, ACOG recommends a beta-hCG cutoff of 3500.

8. The beta-hCG typically doubles within 48 hours during the first trimester. It should definitely rise by a minimum of 53%.

9. For patients using assisted reproductive technology, the risk of heterotopic pregnancy becomes much higher. Finding an IUP does not necessarily rule out a heterotopic pregnancy.

N. Send a urine culture for patients complaining of UTI symptoms even if the urinalysis is negative.

J. The most common surgical problem in pregnancy is appendicitis.

N, If MRI is not available and ultrasound was inconclusive, CT may be warranted for assessing appendicitis. The risk of missing or delaying the diagnosis may outweigh the risk of radiation.

J. ACOG recommends using iodinated contrast only if absolutely required.

N. For stable patients with a pregnancy of unknown location, plan for discharge with follow up in 48 hours for a repeat beta-hCG and ultrasound.

J For nausea and vomiting in pregnancy, try nonpharmacologic treatments like acupressure at the P6 point on the wrist or ginger supplementation. First line pharmacologic treatment is pyridoxine. Doxylamine can be added. Ondansetron may increase risk of fetal cardiac abnormalities

N So that wraps up episode 24 – First Trimester Pregnancy Emergencies: Recognition and Management.

J: Additional materials are available on our website for Emergency Medicine Practice subscribers. If you’re not a subscriber, consider joining today. You can find out more at www.ebmedicine.net/subscribe. Subscribers get in-depth articles on hundreds of emergency medicine topics, concise summaries of the articles, calculators and risk scores, and CME credit. You’ll also get enhanced access to the podcast, including the images and tables mentioned. You can find everything you need to know at ebmedicine.net/subscribe.

N: And the address for this month’s credit is ebmedicine.net/E0119, so head over there to get your CME credit. As always, the you heard throughout the episode corresponds to the answers to the CME questions. Lastly, be sure to find us on iTunes and rate us or leave comments there. You can also email us directly at emplify@ebmedicine.net with any comments or suggestions. Talk to you next month!

Last Updated on January 25, 2023

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