Reproductive outcomes of women with a previous history of Caesarean scar ectopic pregnancies
Reproductive outcomes of women with a previous history of Caesarean scar ectopic pregnancies
J. Ben Nagi 1
S. Helmy 1
D. Ofili-Yebovi 1
J. Yazbek 1
E. Sawyer 1
D. Jurkovic 1
0 The Author 2007. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology
1 Early Pregnancy and Gynaecology Assessment Unit, King's College Hospital , Denmark Hill, London SE 5 8RX , UK
BACKGROUND: Caesarean scar ectopic pregnancy is associated with a number of significant complications. In this study, we report on subsequent reproductive outcomes in a group of women following successful treatment of their scar pregnancies. METHODS: The study included those women who received treatment for their Caesarean scar pregnancies between April 1999 and October 2005. Their ability to conceive, the time it took to become pregnant and outcomes of subsequent pregnancies were all recorded. RESULTS: 40 women with Caesarean scar pregnancies were managed in our unit. The uterus was conserved in 38/40 cases. Follow-up data were available in 29/38 (76%) of women. Twenty-four out of 29 (83%) attempted to become pregnant. Twenty-one out of 24 [88%, 95% confidence interval (CI): 75 - 100] women conceived spontaneously. Twenty out of 21 (95%, 95% CI: 86 - 100) pregnancies were intrauterine and one woman (5%, 95% CI: 0 - 14) had a recurrent scar ectopic. Thirteen out of 20 (65%, 95% CI: 44 - 86) intrauterine pregnancies appeared normal. Nine out of 13 (69%) were delivered by Caesarean section. Seven out of 20 (35%, 95% CI: 14 - 56) intrauterine pregnancies ended in spontaneous abortions. CONCLUSIONS: Our study shows that reproductive outcomes following treatment of caesarean scar ectopic pregnancies are favourable. The risk of complications including recurrent scar implantation appears to be low.
Caesarean section; Caesarean scar ectopics; management; fertility; pregnancy outcomes
Caesarean scar pregnancy is a rare form of ectopic pregnancy
with an incidence of 1:1800 ? 1:2200 pregnancies
et al., 2003; Seow et al., 2004)
. It is associated with a
number of complications such as first or second trimester
spontaneous abortion and pre-term delivery
(Herman et al., 1995;
. However, the most significant complication
of scar implantation is an abnormally adherent placenta,
which may lead to life threatening haemorrhage requiring
(Jurkovic et al., 2003; Ben Nagi
et al., 2005)
. This inevitably leads to the loss of women?s
fertility and may have significant long-term adverse effects on
women?s health and quality of life.
If the uterus is successfully conserved following the treatment
of scar pregnancy, women have a chance to try for another
pregnancy. However, because of their rarity, little is known about
future fertility and pregnancy outcomes following Caesarean
scar ectopics. In this study, we report on subsequent pregnancy
outcomes in a relatively large group of women following
successful conservative treatment of Caesarean scar ectopics.
Materials and Methods
The study included all women who were diagnosed with a Caesarean
scar ectopic pregnancy in our department between April 1999 and
October 2005. They included women from our local population who
were referred for assessment either by their General Practitioners or
by our Accident and Emergency Department. We also accepted
tertiary referrals from Consultant Obstetricians and Gynaecologists
based in other hospitals within the UK.
A transvaginal scan was performed in all of the cases by
gynaecologists, who were trained in transvaginal sonography. The ultrasound
diagnosis of Caesarean scar ectopic pregnancy was made using the
previously reported criteria
(Jurkovic et al., 2003)
. Implantation into
a previous Caesarean section scar was diagnosed when the following
criteria were met: (i) gestational sac located anteriorly at the level of
the internal os within a visible myometrial defect at the site of the
previous lower segment Caesarean section scar; (ii) evidence of
functional trophoblastic/placental circulation on colour Doppler
examination, which was characterized by high velocity (peak velocity
.20 cm/s) and low impedance (pulsatility index ,1) blood flow; (iii)
negative ?sliding organs sign?, which was defined as the inability to
displace the gestational sac from its position at the level of the internal
os using gentle pressure applied by the transvaginal probe.
The main objectives in the management of scar ectopic
pregnancies were prevention of severe blood loss and conservation of the
uterus. The management strategies varied in individual cases. They
were determined by the severity of clinical presentation, gestational
age, pregnancy viability and women?s choice. Twenty-eight out of 40
(70%) women underwent surgical evacuation of pregnancy under
general anaesthetic. Peri-operative haemostasis was secured either by
the insertion of Shirodkar cervical suture or by Foley catheter. The
remaining 12/40 (30%) women were managed conservatively either
with local injection of methotrexate or expectantly. Our management
protocols for medical treatment of Caesarean scar ectopics have been
(Jurkovic et al., 2003)
. The gestational sac was
punctured transvaginally under ultrasound guidance, and embryocide
was performed first by an intracardiac injection of 0.1 ? 0.3 mEq KCl.
Following the cessation of cardiac activity, 25 mg of methotrexate
was injected into the chorionic cavity. All procedures were performed
in the outpatient setting. All women were given i.v. analgesia (pethidine
50 mg) and antibiotic prophylaxis (methronidazole 500 mg ?
cefuroxime 1.5 g).
All women attended for a follow-up visit 6 weeks after the
completion of treatment. An ultrasound scan was performed at the same
time to exclude the possibility of retained products of conception
and to assess the myometrial defect at the previous Caesarean scar
site (Fig. 1). A scar was described as being deficient when there was
a visible gap in the anterior uterine wall covered with thin layer of
peritoneum or if there was a loss of .50% myometrial thickness in
comparison with the myometrium adjacent to the scar.
Following successful treatment of Caesarean scar pregnancy, all
women were encouraged to contact us when they fell pregnant again
or if they experienced any complications. They also gave us their
verbal consent to allow us to contact them from time to time in
order to obtain information about their health and outcome of their
Statistical analysis was performed using Statistical Package for the
Social Sciences (SPSS) version 10 (SPSS Inc., Chicago, IL, USA).
The two-tailed Mann ? Whitney test was used to calculate significant
differences of continuous variables. A value of P , 0.05 was
considered statistically significant.
From April 1999 to October 2005, 40 women diagnosed with
Caesarean scar ectopics were managed in our unit. Twenty-six
out of 40 (65%, 95% CI: 50 ? 80) women were referred to us
from other hospitals, and 14/40 (35%, 95% CI: 20 ? 50) women
came from our local population. The patient?s demographic
details are illustrated in Table 1. Twenty-eight out of 40 (70%,
95% CI: 56 ? 84) Caesarean scar pregnancies were managed by
primary surgical evacuation, 9/40 (22%, 95% CI: 9 ? 35) were
treated medically and 3/40 (8%, 95% CI: 0 ? 16) were managed
expectantly. Three out of nine (33%) women had failed
medical treatment with methotrexate and they required surgical
evacuation of Caesarean scar pregnancies. The uterus was
successfully conserved in 38/40 (95%, 95% CI: 88 ? 100) cases.
Two (5%, 95% CI: 0 ? 12) women with viable Caesarean scar
pregnancies who opted for expectant management both had
emergency hysterectomies. One woman miscarried at 17 weeks
and the other woman had an elective Caesarean section at 38
weeks gestation. They both experienced severe bleeding due to
abnormally adherent placentae, which could not be arrested by
conservative surgical measures.
Follow-up data were available in 29/38 (76%, 95% CI: 62 ?
90) women. Nine out of 38 (24%, 95% CI: 10 ? 38) were lost to
follow-up or they declined to participate in the study. A total of
24/29 (83%, 95% CI: 69 ? 97) women attempted to conceive
following their scar ectopic pregnancy, whereas 5/29 (17%,
95% CI: 3 ? 31) had no desire for further pregnancies (Fig. 2).
One of these women continued to experience heavy and
irregular periods 5 months after an uneventful evacuation of scar
pregnancy and she had an elective hysterectomy at her local
About 21/24 (88%, 95% CI: 75 ? 100) women who tried to
conceive became pregnant during the follow-up period.
Eleven out of 21 (52%, 95% CI: 31 ? 73) women conceived
within 6 months of trying, 6/21 (29%, 95% CI: 10 ? 48) fell
pregnant between 7 and 12 months and 4/21 (19%, 95% CI:
2 ? 36) women conceived more than 1 year following their
scar ectopic pregnancy (Fig. 3).
Twenty out of 21 (95%, 95% CI: 86 ? 100) pregnancies were
intrauterine. Of these intrauterine pregnancies, 13/20 (65%,
95% CI: 44 ? 86) appeared normal on first trimester scan and
they had evidence of fetal cardiac activity, whereas 7/20
(35%, 95% CI: 14 ? 56) intrauterine pregnancies ended in first
trimester spontaneous abortions. One woman (5%, 95% CI:
0 ? 14) had a recurrent Caesarean scar ectopic, but there were
no cases of tubal ectopic pregnancies.
So far, nine pregnancies progressed to term and all the babies
were delivered by elective Caesarean sections. Two
pregnancies are still ongoing and the final outcomes of the remaining
two cases are unknown. There were no cases of placenta
praevia or uterine ruptures in these nine pregnancies.
The median age of women who conceived again was 35 years
(range 27 ? 42), which was less than the median age of 38 (range
34 ? 39) of those who were unable to become pregnant, but this
difference was not statistically significant (P . 0.05). Women
who had normal pregnancies were younger (median age 34,
range 32 ? 42), compared with those who suffered spontaneous
abortions (median age 37, range 35 ? 39). However, this
difference was also not statistically significant (P . 0.05).
Our study confirmed that early diagnosis and active treatment
of Caesarean scar ectopic pregnancy is safe and effective.
None of the patients required open abdominal or laparoscopic
surgery, and the uterus was successfully conserved in all
women who opted for first trimester termination of scar
pregnancies. Our data also showed that non-intervention in
women with viable Caesarean scar ectopic pregnancy who
opted to continue with their pregnancies is likely to result in
severe haemorrhage, requiring emergency hysterectomy once
the pregnancy progresses beyond the first trimester.
Most of our patients were able to conceive without difficulty
following surgical evacuation or medical treatment of their
Caesarean scar ectopics. The median time interval between
previous scar ectopics and new conception was 5.3 months (range
1 ? 48 months). In a previous study of seven women,
et al. (2004)
reported a mean time interval of 13.3 months
between the treatment of scar ectopics and subsequent
pregnancies, but 2/7 (29%) pregnancies in their study occurred after IVF
Although the majority of subsequent pregnancies in our
study were normal, the rate of first trimester spontaneous
abortion was slightly higher than expected. This could be explained
by the higher than average age of women in our study
population. Although the numbers are relatively small, it is
encouraging that none of the women suffered any significant antenatal
problems. In particular, there were no cases of placenta
praevia/accreta or uterine ruptures. All pregnancies, which
progressed to full term, were delivered by elective Caesarean
sections. Therefore, we are unable to comment about possible
risks of uterine scar rupture in labour in women with previous
scar pregnancies. Decisions to perform elective Caesarean
sections were made in all cases by the attending obstetricians.
Although there is no evidence that a trial of scar would be
hazardous in these cases, all the obstetricians felt that in the
presence of a deficient scar a trial of vaginal delivery would
be inappropriate. We did not advice for the closure of the
uterine incision either as, according to a recent national
survey, 96% of obstetricians in the UK use double-layer
techniques to close the lower segment uterine incision
et al., 2002)
. Three out of the nine patients (33%) had their
elective Caesarean sections in our institution, and hence we
have a detailed description of the lower uterine segment,
which was very thin in 2/3 (67%) women. Extensive
omental adhesions and uncomplicated closures of the lower
uterine segment were also documented in all of the three
cases. However, we do not have operative notes for the
remaining patients, who delivered in other hospitals.
Our findings are different from
Seow et al. (2004)
reported a case of uterine rupture leading to maternal death
at 38 weeks gestation in women with previous history of
Caesarean scar pregnancy. However, in this case only a
presumptive diagnosis of scar pregnancy had been made based on
excessive bleeding encountered during surgical evacuation of
a presumed missed spontaneous abortion. In addition, there
were two cases of placenta accretae, one of whom was detected
on a scan and the woman had an emergency hysterectomy at
32 weeks. The other case was not detected antenatally.
Only one woman in our study population suffered a recurrent
Caesarean scar ectopic pregnancy. Her uterine defect was
particularly large and it was extending into the lower part of the
uterine corpus. Her scar was successfully repaired at laparotomy.
She had two intrauterine pregnancies afterwards, but they both
ended in first trimester spontaneous abortion
(Ben Nagi et al.,
. This low risk of recurrence indicates that Caesarean scar
pregnancy is more likely to be a chance event rather than being
caused by a particular affinity of the pregnancy to implant into
the deficient scar. We therefore do not support the view expressed
by Hasegawa et al. (2005) that repair of uterine scar either during
or following evacuation of Caesarean scar ectopic pregnancy is
necessary in order to decrease the risk of recurrence. Another
possible approach would be to repair all deficient scars, which
are detected incidentally on ultrasound scans in non-pregnant
women. This strategy would provide primary prevention of
scar pregnancies. However, severely deficient uterine scars are
not uncommon, and we have found them in 10% of the
population of women with history of previous Caesarean sections
(Ofili-Yebovi et al., 2006)
, although a Caesarean ectopic is a
great rarity. Therefore, a policy of routine repair would result
in a large number of operations being performed, which would
be costly and difficult to justify. The efficacy of surgical repair
of a defective Caesarean scar is also doubtful and it may lead
to various complications, such as poor scar healing, adhesions
formation and hysterectomy, which could be more detrimental
to women?s future fertility.
In view of this, we believe that surgical repair should only be
considered in rare cases of recurrent scar ectopics.
In conclusion, our study shows that reproductive outcomes
following Caesarean scar ectopic pregnancies are good, with
most women being able to achieve subsequent pregnancies in
a relatively short time. The risk of complications, including
recurrent scar implantation, appears to be low. If subsequent
pregnancies are implanted normally within the uterine cavity,
they are at low risk of complications and women could be
managed in the same way as those with previous history of
uncomplicated Caesarean section. This information may be
used to counsel women with Caesarean scar ectopics about
the available management options. Better understanding of
future pregnancy outcomes is particularly helpful in women
with viable scar pregnancies, who wish to preserve their
fertility. In these cases, the decision whether to proceed with the
pregnancy or to opt for a termination is very difficult, and we
hope that the findings from our study may help women and
their carers to make the right management decisions.
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Submitted on December 13 , 2006 ; resubmitted on February 13, 2007 ; accepted on February 15, 2007