Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Focus on the medical literature: Misoprostol for early pregnancy failure is underused despite efficacy and safety .

Article: Provider knowledge, attitudes, and treatment preferences for early pregnancy failure.

Dalton VK, Harris LH, Gold KJ, Kane-Low L, Schulkin J, Guire K, Fendrick AM. Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2010 Jun;202(6):531.e1-8. Epub 2010

The American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology has recently published an article, ‘Provider knowledge, attitudes and treatment preferences for early pregnancy failure’ (EPF),which explores the relationship between health provider attitudes and associated factors and the methods they use for treating miscarriage. Ever since acquiring Asherman’s syndrome from a D&C for an incomplete miscarriage because I was spuriously denied medical management, I have been curious to find out what proportion of Obstetricians offer misoprostol to their patients. This will vary from country to country. My understanding is that many countries in continental Europe are more progressive in adopting misoprostol use than the US, England, Australia and New Zealand. I know from personal experience that in Australia the use of misoprostol for first trimester or early second trimester miscarriage management is rare. I have also learned that even when it is used, the hospital protocols are strict and dosages are in accordance with only second trimester termination, as illogical and ineffective as this may be for other gestational ages.

My interest in the article of course stems from an angle of Asherman’s syndrome prevention, whereas cost effectiveness was the main interest of the study. For this reason, the researchers were focused on the frequency of misoprostol and office uterine evacuations, both of which are far less expensive than operating room (OR) surgical evacuations. This is mainly due to operating room and anesthesiologist costs of OR D&C (the patient is awake during in-office D&C). Thus, the authors consider all treatment options (expectant or medical management, office, and OR procedures) to be reasonable, and that patient preferences should be the deciding factor in treatment choice. It should be mentioned that the same group authored case reports alerting that even gentle manual vacuum aspiration (MVA) (a type of office uterine evacuation) can lead to symptomatic IUA ie. Asherman’s syndrome (1). This is not surprising given that blind instrumentation is involved.

There is a plethora of clinical studies in the medical literature supporting the efficacy and safety of misoprostol (click here) for treatment of early pregnancy failure (2,3) as well as for abortion. Yet there is a discrepancy between the established research findings and its level of use in practice. Although the problem of failing to adopt evidence-based treatments is a common problem it is especially so in women’s health (4,5,6). Therefore, practitioners are usually slow to offer new treatment methods, even when these are known to be effective, safe, and offer advantages to traditional treatments. Thus, clinicians have the power to influence patient treatment, rather than letting the patient choose how her miscarriage is managed (7,8). It is unclear whether all treatment options are routinely offered or available to women who experience early pregnancy failure (9).

The study hypothesized that most providers do not routinely offer patients all acceptable treatment options, and that factors such as knowledge and perceived obstacles to adopting new methods might be associated with sex, specialty, years of practice, and training.

In particular they sought answers from health providers with respect to each treatment method regarding :

-attitudes about treatment safety (and I would add efficacy) (Treatment Preference)
-perceptions of patient acceptance of options (Perception of patient preferences)
-provider comfort with the options (Use of treatments)

For misoprostol and office uterine evacuations they looked at additional factors.

The study was carried out as a written survey which was sent out to Obstetrician-gynecologists (‘Obgyns’), certified nurse midwives/midwives (‘nurses/midwives’), and family physicians (‘GPs’) in the United States.

From the point of view of Asherman’s syndrome prevention, the focus will be on the paper’s relevant outcomes with regards to use of the non-invasive alternatives misoprostol and expectant management compared to OR surgical evacuation (ie. D&C). Also, I am adding a few interpretations which were not mentioned in the article. These are in blue font.


Treatment preference-Obgyns preferred uterine evacuation in the operating room over other methods (45.7%)(No surprise there…)
Perception of patient preferences -Interestingly, Obgyns believed OR D&C was the more preferable treatment than their patients (28.4% vs 15.5%; P<.001, perceived Obgyn and patient rank, respectively). It is unclear whether this reflects a higher level of confidence than their patients in the procedure or if the preference is influenced by financial factors. Note that 21.8% of Obgyns in the study expressed concern regarding reimbursement for in office uterine evacuations- the identical procedure to their self-declared preferred method, the much costlier operating room D&C including anesthesiologist.
Use of treatments -Obgyns reported using OR D&C more than the other options and nurses/midwives and GPs. -38.9% of Obgyns used D&C in over half of all patients in the past 6 months.

Expectant management
Treatment preference
-Nurses/midwives and GPs were the most likely to prefer expectant management (55.2% and 64.5% , respectively)
-Obgyns were the least likely to report expectant management as their most preferred treatment
Perception of patient preferences
-Health provider’s belief regarding patient preference of expectant management mirrored their own.
Use of treatments
-Obgyns were less likely than the others to use expectant management (12.3% compared to 30.4% and 43.4% for nurses/midwives and GPs, respectively).

Treatment preference
-Obgyns, nurses/midwives and GPs chose misoprostol as the second preferred treatment method (33.2%, 61.8% and 60.7% respectively).
Perception of patient preferences
-Health provider’s belief regarding patient preference of misoprostol management mirrored their own.
Use of treatments
Misoprostol (along with office uterine evacuations) were the least commonly used treatment options.
-Most providers had not used misoprostol at all in the past 6 months for EPF treatment.
- Over the last 6 months, 52.7% of Obgyns reported not using it even once.
- Obgyns were still more likely than the others to use misoprostol but only 5% of them reported using it in over half of their patients in the last 6 months.
-67.9% and 84.1% of nurses/midwives and GPs, respectively, reported not ever using misoprostol in the last 6 months.

Provider factors influence on use of misoprostol
-sex and race: Not associated with use of misoprostol
-Safety: providers who believed that misoprostol is safe used it more than those that did not. Disturbingly, 29.7% of Obgyns, 36.2% of nurses/midwives, and 37.8% of GPs did not agree with the statement “Misoprostol is safe.”
(This mindset counters evidence-based medicine and requires further examining).
-Low patient demand: 34.7% of GPs claimed little patient demand was a barrier, versus 18.2% of Obgyns and 15.7% of nurses/midwives. (Is this really a valid excuse not to at least offer it?)
-prior induced abortion training: Not significantly associated with misoprostol use.
(I wonder if training in misoprostol use specifically for EPF management exists)
-Other perceived obstacles to using misoprostol included lack of surgical or nursing backup/support. (Paradoxically these do not appear to hinder the preference of nurses/midwives or GPs for expectant management).

-EPF management is still largely dominated by operating room uterine evacuations (Obgyns) and expectant management (nurses/midwives and GPs) even though the efficacy and safety of misoprostol is well established.

-targeting inaccurate beliefs about the safety of misoprostol and clarifying patient preferences may increase the willingness of providers to adopt new practices to meet patient needs.

Note: -This study does not delineate how much patient preferences account for current treatment patterns, however: 

-Women vary in their treatment preferences, therefore providing access to a wide range of services will improve care.

-clinical trials suggest that misoprostol is acceptable and may be preferred by many women over surgical evacuation especially when successful and when surgery is performed without anesthesia eg. in office (10,11,12,13).

-Improvements in services for EPF, one of the most common clinical problems encountered by women of reproductive age, will have a strong impact on patient experience and satisfaction (I would add also from the point of view of Asherman’s syndrome prevention).


1. Dalton, VK, Saunders, NA, Harris, LH, Williams, JA, and Lebovic, DI. Intrauterine
adhesions after manual vacuum aspiration for early pregnancy failure. Fertil Steril
2006;85(6):1823 e1-3.

2. Zhang, J, Gilles, JM, Barnhart, K, Creinin, MD, Westhoff, C, and Frederick, MM.
A comparison of medical management with misoprostol and surgical management
for early pregnancy failure. N Engl J Med 2005;353(8):761-9.

3. Trinder J, Brocklehurst P, Porter R, Read M, Vyas S, Smith L. Management of miscarriage: expectant, medical, or surgical? Results of randomized controlled trial (miscarriage treatment (MIST) trial). BMJ 2006;332:1235-40.

4. Cabana MD, Kim C. Physician adherence to preventive cardiology guidelines for women. Women’s Health Issues 2003;13:142-9.

5. Haagen EC, Nelen WL, Hermens RP, Braat DD, Grol RP, Kremer JA. Barriers to physician adherence to a subfertility guideline. Hum Reprod 2005;20:3301-6.

6. Harper CC, Blum M, de Bocanegra HT, et al. Challenges in translating evidence to practice: the provision of intrauterine contraception. Obstet Gynecol 2008;111:1359-69.

7. Gurmankin AD, Baron J, Hershey JC, Ubel PA. The role of physicians’ recommendations in medical treatment decisions. Med Decis Making 2002;22:262-71.

8. Molnar AM, Oliver LM, Geyman JP. Patient preferences for management of first-trimester incomplete spontaneous abortion. J Am Board Fam Pract 2000;13:333-7.

9. Dalton VK, Harris LH, Clark SJ, Cohn L, Guire K, Fendrick AM. Treatment patterns for early pregnancy failure in Michigan. J Women’s Health 2009;18:1-7.

10. Moodliar, S, Bagratee, JS, and Moodley, J. Medical vs. surgical evacuation of firsttrimester spontaneous abortion. Int J Gynaecol Obstet 2005;91(1):21-6.

11. Bique, C, Usta, M, Debora, B, Chong, E, Westheimer, E, and Winikoff, B. Comparison of misoprostol and manual vacuum aspiration for the treatment of incomplete abortion. Int J Gynaecol Obstet 2007;98(3):222-6.

12. Lee, DT, Cheung, LP, Haines, CJ, Chan, KP, and Chung, TK. A comparison of the psychologic impact and client satisfaction of surgical treatment with medical treatment of spontaneous abortion: a randomized controlled trial. Am J Obstet Gynecol 2001;185(4):953-8.

13. Graziosi GC, Bruinse HW, Reuwer PJ, Mol BW. Women’s preferences for misoprostol in case of early pregnancy failure. Eur J Obstet Gynecol Reprod Biol 2005;124:184-6.

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