Woman in coma after emergency room misses ectopic pregnancy

Florida women who worry about complications in their pregnancies will often discuss important signs of problems with their health care providers. Ectopic pregnancy is the top cause of maternal deaths during the first trimester because of the significant blood loss that can occur if the pregnancy ruptures. A failure to diagnose this condition may have been a contributing factor in the case of a California woman slipping into a coma at an Anaheim medical center.

The woman visited the facility on Feb. 14 because of severe abdominal pain. The center’s emergency room reportedly conducted an ultrasound, indicating that the 12-week-old fetus was fine. The woman was taken promptly back to the center after becoming unconscious. Her condition was diagnosed as a ruptured ectopic pregnancy, which required emergency surgery. One day after the surgery, her condition worsened as the mother of seven went into a coma.

Experts indicate that ectopic pregnancies can be difficult to detect without surgery in some cases. However, it is noted that an estimated 1 percent of pregnancies are ectopic. Because of this, emergency room personnel tend to be experienced in dealing with the condition. Factors such as a positive pregnancy test, bleeding, and serious abdominal pain are indicators of this potentially life-threatening condition. Additionally, an ultrasound that does not show evidence of an embryo in the uterus may support a diagnosis of ectopic pregnancy.

A pregnant woman’s instinct in dealing with symptoms such as severe pain and bleeding may be to visit the emergency room of a hospital. Being sent home without proper testing could be deadly if an ectopic pregnancy is at issue. A family dealing with such a death or with a major health implications because of such a failure to make a proper diagnosis may warrant a medical malpractice action. Legal assistance may be important to identify specific errors on the part of health care personnel.

Source: ABC News, “Undetected Ectopic Pregnancy Leaves Woman in Coma”, Sydney Lupkin, Feb. 18, 2015