Is pathology examination useful after early surgical abortion?

Maureen Paul, Elyse Lackie, Caroline Mitchell, Angela Rogers, Michelle Fox

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


OBJECTIVE: To study if the pathologist's examination of surgical abortion tissue offers more information than immediate fresh tissue examination by the surgeon. Immediate examination of the fresh tissue aspirate after surgical abortion helps reduce the risk of failed abortion and other complications. Regulations in some states also require a pathologist to analyze abortion specimens at added cost to providers. We conducted this study to evaluate the incremental clinical benefit of pathology examination after surgical abortion at less than 6 weeks' gestation. METHODS: As part of a prospective case series of women who had early surgical abortions at the Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts during a 32-month period, we collected data on clinical outcomes and the results of postoperative tissue examinations. Using outcomes verified by in-person follow-up as the "gold standard," we calculated the validity of the tissue examinations by the surgeons and the outside pathologists. RESULTS: A total of 676 women had documented outcomes and complete tissue examination data. The sensitivity (ability of the examiner to detect an outcome other than complete abortion) was 57% (95% confidence interval [CI] 35, 76) for the surgeons' tissue inspections and 22% (95% CI 8, 44) for the pathologists' examinations. The predictive value of a positive (abnormal) tissue screen was 14% (95% CI 8, 24) and 7% (95% CI 3, 17) for the surgeons and pathologists, respectively. CONCLUSION: Routine pathology examination of the tissue aspirate after early surgical abortion confers no incremental clinical benefit. Although the surgeons' tissue inspections predicted abnormal outcomes poorly, the pathologists did no better. Our results challenge the rationale for state regulations requiring pathologic analysis of all surgical abortion specimens.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)567-571
Number of pages5
JournalObstetrics and gynecology
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2002

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Obstetrics and Gynecology

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