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Methods Used to Diagnose Premature Rupture of Membranes: A National Survey of 812 Obstetric Nurses

Obstetrics & Gynecology: September 1998
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Objective To identify methods used to diagnose premature rupture of membranes (PROM).

Methods A 14-item questionnaire was mailed to 1992 registered nurses certified in inpatient obstetrics to determine information on practice facility, obstetric services, procedures used to obtain vaginal fluids for testing, and methods used to diagnose PROM.

Results A total of 812 (40.8%) surveys were available for analysis. Of tests used to confirm PROM, observation of pooling fluid in the posterior fornix and fern tests were much more likely to be used in teaching and military hospitals and in facilities with tertiary obstetric services than in private hospitals (all P values < .001). To obtain vaginal fluids for fern and nitrazine testing, the dry glove method (ie, insertion of a gloved hand or nitrazine strip into the vagina) was used significantly more often in private hospitals than in teaching or military facilities (P < .001). In addition, the dry glove method was used significantly more often (P < .001) and the speculum examination was used less often (P < .001) to collect vaginal fluids for testing when private physicians performed more than 75% of deliveries at a particular hospital. In contrast, vaginal fluid was obtained during a sterile speculum examination more often in facilities in which more than 75% of deliveries were performed by residents (P < .001), and/or when more than 75% of speculum examinations were performed by nursing personnel (P < .001). Multiple linear regression analyses indicated that observation of pooling fluid and use of the fern test were significantly associated with hospital type, percentage of deliveries by private physicians, and percentage of speculum examinations performed by nursing personnel (all P values < .001).

Conclusion A sterile speculum examination is used more often to obtain vaginal fluids for testing and to diagnose ruptured membranes in teaching or military facilities and when nursing personnel have been trained in speculum examinations.

Address reprint requests to: Lynn J. Groome, PhD, MD, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of South Alabama, 2451 Fillingim Street, Mobile, AL 36617. E-mail:

© 1998 The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists