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Pregnancy Tests Seldom Conducted on Adolescent Emergency Department Patients

Update Date: Oct 19, 2012 10:50 AM EDT

A new study suggests that very few teenaged females undergo pregnancy tests in the hospital emergency department (ED), even when they complained of lower abdominal pain, or before they are exposed to radiation for tests or examinations.

For the study, aimed at finding out the rate of pregnancy tests conducted on adolescent emergency department patients, the researchers reviewed National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey data from 2000 to 2009 on female patients aged 14 to 21 who were examined in a hospital ED.

The findings of the study revealed that among the 77 million girls who visited an Emergency Department in the nine years, only 14.5 million (18.7 percent) were tested for pregnancy.

In instances where the patients complained of an abdominal pain, 42.3 percent of them were made to undergo a pregnancy test, and among those who received radiologic imaging, 21.5 percent were tested, the report revealed.

The report raises concerns as it was found that only 27.9 percent of those who were exposed to radiation that could cause birth defects received a pregnancy test. Also, based on the age, race and insurance type, there were discriminations made against the patients, the report revealed.

"We were surprised to find that pregnancy testing occurred infrequently," said study author Monika Goyal, MD, FAAP.

"It was particularly concerning that rates of pregnancy testing were low even among females with potential reproductive health complaints or with exposure to radiation through diagnostic testing, like CT scans. These findings underscore the need to develop quality improvement interventions to increase pregnancy testing in adolescent girls in the emergency department, especially among those with higher risk of pregnancy complications."

The abstract was presented on Friday, Oct. 19, at the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) National Conference and Exhibition in New Orleans.

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