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Open Access Research article

The impact of tubal ectopic pregnancy in Papua New Guinea – a retrospective case review

Nancy N Hamura1*, John W Bolnga1, Regina Wangnapi2, Andrew W Horne3, Stephen J Rogerson4 and Holger W Unger4

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Modilon General Hospital, P.O. Box 2119, Madang, 511, Papua New Guinea

2 Papua New Guinea Institute of Medical Research, PO Box 378, Madang, 511, Papua New Guinea

3 MRC Centre for Reproductive Health, The Queen’s Medical Research Institute, The University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK

4 Department of Medicine (Royal Melbourne Hospital), The University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia

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BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth 2013, 13:86  doi:10.1186/1471-2393-13-86

Published: 4 April 2013



Ectopic pregnancy (EP) is an important cause of morbidity and mortality amongst women of reproductive age. Tubal EP is well described in industrialised countries, but less is known about its impact in low-resource countries, in particular in the South Pacific Region.


We undertook a retrospective review of women with tubal EP treated at a provincial referral hospital in coastal Papua New Guinea over a period of 56 months. Demographic and clinical variables were obtained from patients’ medical records and analysed. The institutional rate of tubal EP was calculated, and diagnosis and management reviewed. Potential risk factors for tubal EP were identified, and delays contributing to increased morbidity described.


A total of 73 women had tubal EP. The institutional rate of tubal EP over the study period was 6.3 per 1,000 deliveries. There were no maternal deaths due to EP. The mean age of women was 31.5+/−5.7 years, 85% were parous, 67% were rural dwellers and 62% had a history of sub-fertility. The most commonly used diagnostic aid was culdocentesis. One third of women had clinical evidence of shock on arrival. All women with tubal EP were managed by open salpingectomy. Tubal rupture was confirmed for 48% of patients and was more common amongst rural dwellers. Forty-three percent of women had macroscopic evidence of pelvic infection. Two-thirds of patients received blood transfusions, and post-operative recovery lasted six days on average. Late presentation, lack of clinical suspicion, and delays with receiving appropriate treatments were observed.


Tubal EP is a common gynaecological emergency in a referral hospital in coastal PNG, and causes significant morbidity, in particular amongst women residing in rural areas. Sexually transmitted infections are likely to represent the most important risk factor for tubal EP in PNG. Interventions to reduce the morbidity due to tubal EP include the prevention, detection and treatment of sexually transmitted infections, identification and reduction of barriers to prompt presentation, increasing health workers’ awareness of ectopic pregnancy, providing pregnancy test kits to rural health centres, and strengthening hospital blood transfusion services, including facilities for autotransfusion.

Delays; Ectopic pregnancy; Management; Papua New Guinea; Rate; Resource-limited settings