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ACOG Publications

ACOG Practice Bulletin No. 191 Summary: Tubal Ectopic Pregnancy

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doi: 10.1097/AOG.0000000000002499
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Clinical Management Questions

  • How is an ectopic pregnancy diagnosed?
  • Who are candidates for medical management of ectopic pregnancy?
  • What methotrexate regimens are used in the management of ectopic pregnancy, and how do they compare in effectiveness and risk of adverse effects?
  • What surveillance is needed after methotrexate treatment?
  • What are the potential adverse effects of systemic methotrexate administration?
  • How should women be counseled regarding the treatment effects of methotrexate?
  • How does methotrexate treatment affect subsequent fertility?
  • Who are candidates for surgical management of ectopic pregnancy?
  • How do medical management and surgical management of ectopic pregnancy compare in effectiveness and risk of complications?
  • How do salpingostomy and salpingectomy compare in effectiveness and fertility outcomes in the management of ectopic pregnancy?
  • Who are candidates for expectant management of diagnosed ectopic pregnancy?


The following recommendations are based on good and consistent scientific evidence (Level A):

  • In clinically stable women in whom a nonruptured ectopic pregnancy has been diagnosed, laparoscopic surgery or intramuscular methotrexate administration are safe and effective treatments. The decision for surgical management or medical management of ectopic pregnancy should be guided by the initial clinical, laboratory, and radiologic data as well as patient-informed choice based on a discussion of the benefits and risks of each approach.
  • Surgical management of ectopic pregnancy is required when a patient is exhibiting any of the following: hemodynamic instability, symptoms of an ongoing ruptured ectopic mass (such as pelvic pain), or signs of intraperitoneal bleeding.

The following recommendations are based on limited or inconsistent scientific evidence (Level B):

  • Serum hCG values alone should not be used to diagnose an ectopic pregnancy and should be correlated with the patient’s history, symptoms, and ultrasound findings.
  • If the concept of the hCG discriminatory level is to be used as a diagnostic aid in women at risk of ectopic pregnancy, the value should be conservatively high (eg, as high as 3,500 mIU/mL) to avoid the potential for misdiagnosis and possible interruption of an intrauterine pregnancy that a woman hopes to continue.
  • The decision to perform a salpingostomy or salpingectomy for the treatment of ectopic pregnancy should be guided by the patient’s clinical status, her desire for future fertility, and the extent of fallopian tube damage.
  • The choice of methotrexate protocol should be guided by the initial hCG level and discussion with the patient regarding the benefits and risks of each approach. In general, the single-dose protocol may be most appropriate for patients with a relatively low initial hCG level or a plateau in hCG values, and the two-dose regimen may be considered as an alternative to the single-dose regimen, particularly in women with an initial high hCG value.
  • Failure of the hCG level to decrease by at least 15% from day 4 to day 7 after methotrexate administration is associated with a high risk of treatment failure and requires additional methotrexate administration (in the case of the single-dose or two-dose regimen) or surgical intervention.
  • Patients can be counseled that available evidence, although limited, suggests that methotrexate treatment of ectopic pregnancy does not have an adverse effect on subsequent fertility or on ovarian reserve.
  • There may be a role for expectant management of ectopic pregnancy in specific circumstances.

The following recommendations are based primarily on consensus and expert opinion (Level C):

  • The minimum diagnostic evaluation of a suspected ectopic pregnancy is a transvaginal ultrasound evaluation and confirmation of pregnancy. Serial evaluation with transvaginal ultrasonography, or serum hCG level measurement, or both, often is required to confirm the diagnosis.
  • A woman with a pregnancy of unknown location who is clinically stable and has a desire to continue the pregnancy, if intrauterine, should have a repeat transvaginal ultrasound examination, or serial measurement of hCG concentration, or both, to confirm the diagnosis and guide management.
  • Medical management with methotrexate can be considered for women with a confirmed or high clinical suspicion of ectopic pregnancy who are hemodynamically stable, who have an unruptured mass, and who do not have absolute contraindications to methotrexate administration.
  • After administration of methotrexate treatment, hCG levels should be serially monitored until a nonpregnancy level (based upon the reference laboratory assay) is reached.
  • Patients treated with methotrexate should be counseled about the risk of ectopic pregnancy rupture; about avoiding certain foods, supplements, or drugs that can decrease efficacy; and about the importance of not becoming pregnant again until resolution has been confirmed.

Studies were reviewed and evaluated for quality according to the method outlined by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. Based on the highest level of evidence found in the data, recommendations are provided and graded according to the following categories:

Level A—Recommendations are based on good and consistent scientific evidence.

Level B—Recommendations are based on limited or inconsistent scientific evidence.

Level C—Recommendations are based primarily on consensus and expert opinion.

© 2018 by The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Published by Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc. All rights reserved.