Ectopic pregnancies occur when a fertilized egg embeds in the lining of the fallopian tube instead of the uterus. This can happen because the fallopian tube is too narrow or simply by accident. Typically, ectopic pregnancy is difficult to diagnose because symptoms do not present until the fetus grows too large for the tube. Deaths are not common with ectopic pregnancies in westernized nations, but in developing nations one out of 10 women with the condition die.

The study investigated cases of 40 women being treated for ectopic pregnancy, surgical abortion of pregnancy or embryonic missed miscarriage. Trophoblast samples were taken from all women. The trophoblast cells aid in the implantation process after egg fertilization. Serum levels of PGIF were measured in all samples. Doctors found that women being treated for ectopic pregnancy measured lower Serum PGIF levels than women with traditional pregnancies.

A successful serum test for ectopic pregnancy could reduce the health costs associated with the condition. Currently, women have to attend many doctors’ visits and undergo a long list of tests to diagnose an ectopic pregnancy. With a serum tests, doctors would be able to test early and have the definitive results needed to terminate the pregnancy. Termination may be less invasive if the ectopic pregnancy is discovered earlier in gestation.

This study was very small in scale. Researchers plan on evaluating the Serum PGIF test in a larger scale study in the near future. Typically, women with ectopic pregnancy have to undergo surgery to remove the fetus. Surgery prep gives researchers time to gather information and collect trophoblast samples.

Source: Andrew Horne PhD, Julie Shaw, Amanda Murdoch, Sarah McDonald, Alistair Williams, Henry Jabbour, W. Colin Duncan, Hilary Critchley. Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism. January 2011.