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LO40: Services for emergency department patients experiencing early pregnancy complications: a survey of Ontario hospitals

  • R. Glicksman (a1), S. McLeod (a1), J. Thomas (a1) and C. Varner (a1)

Abstract

Introduction: Women experiencing complications of early pregnancy frequently seek care in the emergency department (ED), as most have not yet established care with an obstetrical provider. The primary objective of this study was to explore the services available (ED management, ultrasound access, and follow-up care) for ED patients experiencing early pregnancy loss or threatened early pregnancy loss in Ontario hospitals. Methods: The emergency medicine chiefs of 71 Ontario hospital EDs with an annual census of more than 30,000 ED patient visits in 2017 were invited to complete a 30-item, online questionnaire using modified Dillman methodology. These hospitals constitute greater than 85% of the annual ED visits in Ontario, creating a sample reflective of the services available to most women older than 18 years old seeking care for early pregnancy complications in the province. Results: Respondents from 63 EDs across Ontario completed the survey (response rate 88.7%). Of the EDs surveyed, 34 (54.0%) reported they did not have access to early pregnancy clinic services for women who presented to the ED with early pregnancy complications that were safe to discharge home. At these hospitals, it was found that patients were followed up in 14 (41.2%) EDs for the same complications including pregnancy of unknown location and threatened abortion. Respondents also stated that radiologist-interpreted ultrasound was only available to 22 (34.9%) of hospital sites 24 hours a day, 7 days per week for women with early pregnancy complications. Of hospital site respondents, 55 (87.3%) reported point-of-care ultrasound (POCUS) use in the ED for patients with early pregnancy complications, and 27 (49.1%) reported the ED had access to transvaginal ultrasound probes for POCUS assessment by emergency physicians. Additionally, the proportion of ED physicians who were certified as Canadian Emergency Ultrasound independent practitioners ranged from 10% to 100%. Conclusion: The results of this study highlight the reliance of some hospitals on the ED to provide ongoing follow-up care to patients experiencing complications of early pregnancy. The lack of clinical resources and specialized personnel in Ontario hospital EDs makes supporting these women longitudinally unrealistic, exposing them to undue risk and complications.

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