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N Engl J Med. 1994 Aug 4;331(5):290-3.

A comparison of intravaginal misoprostol with prostaglandin E2 for termination of second-trimester pregnancy.

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  • 1Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Southern California School of Medicine, Los Angeles 90033.



The most widely used medical method of terminating second-trimester pregnancy is the intravaginal administration of prostaglandin E2 (dinoprostone [PGE2]). This treatment is highly effective but is associated with severe gastrointestinal side effects and hyperpyrexia.


We conducted a prospective, randomized trial comparing the efficacy and safety of misoprostol, a prostaglandin E1 analogue (200 micrograms intravaginally every 12 hours), with the efficacy and safety of PGE2 (20 mg intravaginally every 3 hours). The study population included 55 pregnant women between 12 and 22 weeks' gestation who were undergoing termination of pregnancy for either intrauterine fetal death (37 women) or medical or genetic reasons (18 women).


The rate of successful abortions within 24 hours was 81 percent (22 of 27 women) with PGE2 and 89 percent (25 of 28 women) with misoprostol (P = 0.47). All the women who received misoprostol had successful abortions within 38 hours. Among those who had an abortion within 24 hours, the mean interval from treatment to abortion was similar in both groups (10.6 hours with PGE2 and 12.0 hours with misoprostol, P = 0.33). The rate of complete abortion, defined as the passage of the fetus and the placenta simultaneously, was 32 percent for PGE2 and 43 percent for misoprostol (P = 0.56). Certain side effects were more frequent in the women receiving PGE2 than in those receiving misoprostol: pyrexia (63 percent vs. 11 percent; P < 0.001), uterine pain (67 percent vs. 57 percent, P = 0.58), vomiting (33 percent vs. 4 percent, P = 0.005), and diarrhea (30 percent vs. 4 percent, P = 0.012). The average cost per treatment was $315.30 for PGE2, as compared with $0.97 for misoprostol.


Misoprostol is at least as effective as PGE2 for the termination of second-trimester pregnancy involving either a dead or a living fetus, but it is less costly, is easier to administer, and is associated with fewer adverse effects.

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