Purpose of review
To review the recent literature on surgical second-trimester abortion, with specific attention to cervical preparation techniques.
Confirming previous studies, a recent retrospective observational cohort study, including 54 911 abortions, estimated the total abortion-related complication rate to be 0.41% for second-trimester or later procedures. Cervical preparation is known to reduce risks associated with second-trimester dilation and evacuation (D&E). When considering adjuncts to osmotic dilators for cervical preparation prior to D&E after 16 weeks, both misoprostol and mifepristone are effective alone and in combination or as adjuncts to osmotic dilators. Misoprostol consistently has been shown to cause more pain and cramping than placebo, but is an effective adjunct to osmotic dilators after 16 weeks. Although mifepristone has fewer side-effects, at its current price, it may not be as cost-effective as misoprostol.
Second-trimester abortion is safe. The use of mifepristone and misoprostol for second-trimester abortion has improved safety and efficacy of medical and surgical methods when used alone or in combination and as adjuncts to osmotic dilators. An important aspect of D&E, cervical preparation, is not a one-size-fits-all practice; the approach and methods are contingent on patient, provider and setting and should consider all the evidence-based options.