-- Robert Preidt
WEDNESDAY, March 7 (HealthDay News) -- The drug misoprostol
reduced major complications from early surgical abortion by nearly
one-third, according to a new study.
Doctors often use misoprostol for cervical preparation prior to
surgical abortion (vacuum aspiration). Until now, however, there
were no studies large enough to determine whether the drug reduces
the risk of serious complications, either immediate or delayed,
according to background information in the study published in the
March 8 online edition of
For the study, researchers from the World Health Organization
(WHO) in Geneva compared rates of complications among nearly 5,000
women in nine countries who underwent surgical abortion before 12
weeks of gestation. Complications included cervical tear, uterine
perforation, incomplete abortion and pelvic inflammatory
Women were randomly assigned to receive either vaginal
misoprostol or an inactive "placebo" three hours before the
The women in the misoprostol group were nearly one-third less
likely to experience one or more complications compared to the
women who received a placebo, and the risk of incomplete abortion
was nearly three times higher among the women in the placebo group,
the investigators found.
Women in the misoprostol group, however, were more likely to
experience abdominal pain, vaginal bleeding and nausea in the three
hours before surgery.
"Misoprostol reduced the overall incidence of complications, particularly incomplete abortions and unscheduled clinic visits and hospital admissions, after abortion," concluded study author Eduardo Bergel and colleagues, in a journal news release. "Providers should be aware of the side effects of the drug and inform women about these effects."
In an accompanying editorial, Dr. Allan Templeton, professor of
obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Aberdeen in
Scotland, wrote: "The important ongoing issue is . . . the balance
between effectiveness of the procedure and the side effects of
misoprostol, which will include abdominal cramps and vaginal
bleeding in most women, although not to the extent of needing
medical intervention before surgery."
The findings of this study suggest that "routine pharmaceutical
dilation of the cervix should be recommended as an integral part of
surgical abortion in all women," Templeton added.
The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more about
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