Clinical Review

Manual vacuum aspiration: A safe and effective treatment for early miscarriage

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Surgical management of early pregnancy loss has advantages over medical treatment. For one, patients benefit from a brief procedure using local anesthesia. Here, pearls for office-based surgery as well as other treatment options.

In this Article

  • Advantages of office-based manual vacuum aspiration
  • Medical management
  • Current diagnostic criteria



Case Miscarriage in a 29-year-old woman
A woman (G0P0) presents to her gynecologist with amenorrhea for 3 months and a positive home urine pregnancy test. She is 29 years of age. She denies any bleeding or pain and intends to continue the pregnancy, though it was unplanned. Results of office ultrasonography to assess fetal viability reveal an intrauterine gestation with an 8-mm fetal pole but no heartbeat. The diagnosis is miscarriage.

This case illustrates a typical miscarriage diagnosis; most women with miscarriage are asymptomatic and without serious bleeding requiring emergency 
intervention. The management options include surgical, medical, and expectant. Women should be offered all 3 of these, and clinicians should explain the risks and benefits of each approach. But while each strategy can be safe, effective, and acceptable, many women, as well as their health care providers, will benefit from office-based uterine aspiration. In this article, we present the data available on office-based manual vacuum aspiration (MVA) as well as procedure pointers and urge you to consider MVA in your practice for your patients.

Surgical management
Surgical management of miscarriage offers several clear advantages over medical and expectant management. Perhaps the most important advantage to patients is that surgery offers rapid resolution of miscarriage with the shortest duration of bleeding.1,2 When skilled providers perform electric vacuum aspiration (EVA) or MVA in outpatient or emergency department settings, successful uterine evacuation is completed in a single medical encounter 99% of the time.1 By comparison, several follow-up visits and additional ultrasounds may be required during medical or expectant management. Uterine aspiration rarely requires an operating room (OR). Such a setting should be limited to cases in which the clinical picture reflects:

  • hemodynamic instability with active uterine bleeding
  • serious uterine infection
  • the presence of medical comorbidities in patients who may benefit from additional blood bank and anesthesia resources.

Office-based MVA
Office-based MVA is well tolerated when performed using a combination of verbal distraction and reassurance, oral nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and a paracervical block with or without intravenous sedation.

Evidence on managing pain at MVA. Multiple studies have assessed preprocedure and postprocedure pain using NSAIDs, oral anxiolytics, and local anesthesia at the time of EVA or MVA.3,4 Renner and colleagues found that women who received a paracervical block prior to MVA or EVA reported moderate levels of pain, according to a 100-point visual analogue scale (VAS), at the time of cervical dilation (mean, 42) and uterine aspiration (mean, 63).4 In this same study, patients’ willingness to treat a future pregnancy with EVA or MVA using local anesthesia and their overall satisfaction with the procedure was high (mean, 90 on 100-point VAS).

In-office advantages over the OR. Women and clinicians can avoid the extensive scheduling delays associated with ORs, as well as the complications associated with medical and expectant management, if office-based EVA and MVA services are readily available. Compared with surgical management of miscarriage in an OR, office-based EVA and MVA are faster to complete. For example, Dalton and colleagues compared patients undergoing first-trimester procedures in an office setting with those undergoing a procedure in an OR. The mean procedure time for women treated in an office was 10 minutes, compared with 19 minutes for women treated in the OR. In addition, women 
treated in an office setting spent a mean total of 97 minutes at the office; women treated in an OR spent a mean total of 290 minutes at the hospital.5

Patients’ satisfaction with care provided in the OR was comparable to patients’ satisfaction with care provided in a medical office. In fact, the median total satisfaction score was high among women who had a procedure in either setting (office score, 19 of 20; OR score, 20 of 20).

Cost and equipment for in-office MVA
Office-based surgical management of miscarriage is more cost-effective than OR-based management. In 2006, Dalton and colleagues conducted a cost analysis and found that average charges for office-based MVA were less than half the cost of charges for a dilation and curettage (D&C) in the OR ($968 vs $1,965, respectively).5

More recently, these researchers found that usual care (expectant or OR management) was more costly than a model that also included medical and office-based surgical options. They found that the expanded care model—with use of the OR only when needed—cost $1,033.29 per case. This was compared with $1,247.58 per case when management options did not include medical and office-based surgical treatments.6

The cost of supplies needed to initiate MVA services within an established outpatient gynecologist’s office is modest. Equipment includes manual vacuum aspirators; disposable cannulae of various sizes; reusable plastic or metal dilators; supplies for disinfection, allowing reuse of MVA aspirators; and supplies for examination of products of conception (POC; FIGURE 1).

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