A fertilized egg can't develop normally outside the uterus. To prevent life-threatening complications, the ectopic tissue needs to be removed.
If the ectopic pregnancy is detected early, an injection of the drug methotrexate is sometimes used to stop cell growth and dissolve existing cells. It's imperative that the diagnosis of ectopic pregnancy is certain before this treatment is undertaken.
After the injection, your doctor will monitor your blood for the pregnancy hormone human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG). If the HCG level remains high, you might need another injection of methotrexate.
In other cases, ectopic pregnancy is usually treated with laparoscopic surgery. In this procedure, a small incision is made in the abdomen, near or in the navel. Then your doctor uses a thin tube equipped with a camera lens and light (laparoscope) to view the area.
Other instruments can be inserted into the tube or through other small incisions to remove the ectopic tissue and repair the fallopian tube. If the fallopian tube is significantly damaged, it might need to be removed.
If the ectopic pregnancy is causing heavy bleeding or the fallopian tube has ruptured, you might need emergency surgery through an abdominal incision (laparotomy). In some cases, the fallopian tube can be repaired. Typically, however, a ruptured tube must be removed.
Your doctor will monitor your HCG levels after surgery to be sure all of the ectopic tissue was removed. If HCG levels don't come down quickly, an injection of methotrexate may be needed.
Jan. 20, 2015
- Frequently asked questions. Pregnancy FAQ 0155. Ectopic pregnancy. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. http://www.acog.org/Patients/FAQs/Ectopic-Pregnancy. Accessed Dec. 9, 2014.
- Cunningham FG, et al. Williams Obstetrics. 24th ed. New York, N.Y.: The McGraw-Hill Companies; 2014. http://accessmedicine.mhmedical.com/book.aspx?bookid=1057. Accessed Dec. 9, 2014.
- Tulandi T. Clinical manifestations, diagnosis, and management of ectopic pregnancy. http://www.uptodate.com/index. Accessed Dec. 9, 2014.
- Tulandi T. Incidence, risk factors, and pathology of ectopic pregnancy. http://www.uptodate.com/index. Accessed Dec. 9, 2014.
- Harms RW (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Dec. 15, 2014.