Background: Pregnant female patients with vaginal bleeding in the first trimester are seen commonly in the Emergency Department (ED) at the University Hospital of the West Indies (UHWI), Kingston, Jamaica. The protocol for the management of these patients requires that they have a sonographic evaluation performed for the purpose of localizing the pregnancy where possible, to assist with determining the risk for an ectopic pregnancy. The ultrasound examinations are performed in the radiology department.
Objective: This retrospective study was conducted to evaluate how long patients wait for a pelvic ultrasound. We also sought to establish how many patients had ultrasound findings that would have allowed safe discharge home.
Methods: The records of 150 patients seen in the six-month period from January 1 to July 30, 2008 were examined. Data were extracted pertaining to age, time to see an emergency room doctor, time taken for ultrasound examination to be obtained from the radiology department and the ultrasound findings.
Result: Fifty-four per cent presented to the Emergency Department with a complaint of vaginal bleeding and abdominal pain, 29% with bleeding only, 16% with abdominal pain only and one with syncope. One hundred and sixteen of the patients enrolled had an ultrasound performed at UHWI. The average waiting time for an ultrasound was 3.8 ± 2.5 hours. The majority (66/116) of the patients had an intrauterine pregnancy (IUP) demonstrated on ultrasound. Twenty-nine had no IUP, free fluid or adnexal mass. These 95 patients would likely have been discharged home. Ten patients had an adnexal mass with or without free fluid, and ten had free fluid only on ultrasound. One patient was found to have a definite ectopic pregnancy. These 21 patients would have been referred for evaluation by the obstetrician on call for further management.
Conclusion: The majority of patients had sonographic findings that would have allowed safe and timely discharge from the Emergency Department had ultrasound been available at the point of care.