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Diagnose Ectopic Pregnancy

Claiming Compensation For A Misdiagnosed Ectopic Pregnancy21st Nov 2017

by David Simpson on 21st Nov 2017

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Diagnose Ectopic Pregnancy


Early Diagnosis Is Vital – Did Your Doctors Fail To Identify Complications?

Ectopic pregnancies can be treated with the drug methotrexate – rather than surgery – but only if diagnosed early.

Failure to diagnose and treat an ectopic pregnancy in time can cause the fallopian tube to rupture, leading to severe and potentially fatal internal bleeding. In all cases the baby is lost.

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Misdiagnosis Of Ectopic Pregnancy: Why The Doctors Can Make Mistakes

Sometimes doctors fail to diagnose an ectopic pregnancy promptly because the symptoms can be similar to those of a miscarriage, acute appendicitis or ovarian torsions.

One of the most telling symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy is ‘shoulder tip pain’. This is an unusual pain that occurs where your shoulder ends and your arm begins. Doctors do not know why it occurs but it can be a sign that an ectopic pregnancy is causing internal bleeding. Seek expert medical advice immediately if you experience shoulder tip pain.

However, this pain does not always occur in an ectopic pregnancy. So the absence of this pain does not automatically mean your pregnancy is going to be safe and normal.

Your doctor should take into account your medical history and also key risk factors such as any existing damage to your fallopian tubes caused by infection, previous surgery or an earlier ectopic pregnancy.

Other risk factors can include your choice of contraception (coil or mini pill), infertility treatment (IVF), your age (35+) and whether you smoke.

Did the hospital treating you miss these warning signs and fail to carry out the recommended ultrasound scans and other tests needed to diagnose an ectopic pregnancy?

If so, then you may have grounds to claim for medical negligence.


Other Reasons Why Doctors Fail To Diagnose An Ectopic Pregnancy

It is common for doctors and other clinicians to be cautious. We have many cases where it is known that the patient is pregnant, there have been positive pregnancy tests – but no intrauterine pregnancy is seen on an ultrasound scan (USS).

In cases such as these, the clinicians often assume that it may be too early in the pregnancy for the foetus to be visualised. The gestation is estimated based on the last menstrual period but it can also be calculated on the level of β-hCG (human chorionic gonadotropin) ‘pregnancy hormone’. The foetus should be large enough to be seen at about a gestation of five to six weeks.

Did the clinicians who treated you mistakenly assume that your pregnancy was ‘too early’ for your baby to appear on the ultrasound scan?

If the clinicians were unsure then they should have carried out serial blood tests to check whether your β-hCG hormone level was rising (indicating an ongoing pregnancy) and at what rate.

This is an important series of blood tests because the rate of β-hCG increase is lower if the pregnancy is ectopic.


Did Your Doctors Fail To Analyse Your β-hCG Data Correctly?

There must be more than one β-hCG test: there must be a series because a single serum measurement of the β-hCG concentration cannot identify the location of the gestational sac that contains your embryo. 

And although women with an ectopic pregnancy tend to have lower β-hCG levels than those with an intrauterine pregnancy, there is considerable overlap – leading to possible misdiagnosis. In a normal pregnancy, the first-trimester β-hCG concentration doubles around every two days. But an ectopic pregnancy may present with rising, falling or plateau β-hCG levels. 

Women with an ectopic pregnancy and β-hCG levels greater than a certain level will need an operation due to increasing symptoms or rupture of a fallopian tube. Tubal rupture can also occur when serum β-hCG levels are low or declining, or both.

Did your clinicians fail to analyse the results of your β-hCG tests correctly? 

If so, you may be able to claim compensation for an undiagnosed, misdiagnosed or late-diagnosed ectopic pregnancy.


Did Doctors Make Mistakes When They Treated Your Ectopic Pregnancy?

Not only can clinicians fail to diagnose an ectopic pregnancy in time, they may also fail to treat it correctly.

Even if they do diagnose an ectopic pregnancy early enough to administer methotrexate (avoiding the need for surgery), there is no guarantee that they will get it right.

We have one case where methotrexate was administered but we allege that inadequate checks were made to ensure that it was successful. The ectopic pregnancy remained present in the fallopian tube for many months, causing significant symptoms.


How Much Compensation Could I Claim?

Successful claims for a misdiagnosed ectopic pregnancy typically result in a compensation award or a settlement of between £20,000 and £35,000.

Damages can be substantially higher in the event of more serious complications, bearing in mind any loss of earnings and the care needs of you and your family.

Our medical negligence solicitors handle all claims on a No Win No Fee basis so there is no financial risk to you.


Get Expert Legal Advice From An Ectopic Pregnancy Solicitor

Coles Miller is listed among the UK’s Legal 500 recommended lawyers for its expertise and experience in handling specialist clinical negligence compensation claims.

Coles Miller Partner David Simpson, head of our Medical Negligence Department, specialises in ectopic pregnancy claims. Contact him for more information about No Win No Fee compensation claims.