OBJECTIVE: To determine the test characteristics of transabdominal ultrasonography as a screening test for second-trimester placenta previa.
METHODS: This secondary analysis of a prospective cohort study evaluated the distance from the placental edge to the internal os (placenta–cervix distance) through both transabdominal and transvaginal ultrasonography during the anatomic survey. Patients were recruited in the Maternal-Fetal Medicine Ultrasound Unit at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, an urban tertiary care center. Transabdominal placenta–cervix distance cutoffs with high sensitivity for detection of previa and low-lying placenta were identified, and test characteristics were calculated. Follow-up ultrasound data, pregnancy, and delivery outcomes for those with second-trimester previa or low-lying placenta were obtained.
RESULTS: One thousand two hundred fourteen women were included in the analysis. A transabdominal placenta–cervix distance cutoff of 4.2 cm was 93.3% sensitive and 76.7% specific for detection of previa with a 99.8% negative predictive value at a screen-positive rate of 25.0%. A cutoff of 2.8 cm was 86.7% sensitive and 90.5% specific with a 99.6% negative predictive value at a screen-positive rate of 11.4%. Only 9.8% (four of 41) of previas and low-lying placentas persisted through delivery.
CONCLUSION: Transabdominal ultrasonography is an effective screening test for second-trimester placenta previa. At centers not performing universal transvaginal ultrasonography at the time of the anatomic survey, evidence-based transabdominal placenta–cervix distance cutoffs can optimize the identification of patients who require further surveillance for previa.
LEVEL OF EVIDENCE: II