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S Afr Med J. 2000 Mar;90(3):256-62.

Randomised controlled trial of the efficacy of misoprostol used as a cervical ripening agent prior to termination of pregnancy in the first trimester.

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University of Pretoria.



Misoprostol is being used increasingly in clinical practice for cervical ripening in first-trimester abortions, but because of lack of good evidence of its effectiveness, administration consensus has not been reached on dosage, route of administration, time of administration pre-operatively and gestational age group. In this study we tested the hypothesis that self-administration of 600 micrograms vaginal misoprostol is feasible and when used 2-4 hours pre-operatively results in sufficient cervical dilatation to make suction curettage easier.


A double-blind, randomised, placebo-controlled trial was undertaken. Two hundred and seventy-eight women scheduled for termination of pregnancy of up to 12 weeks' duration by manual vacuum aspiration were assigned to receive either 600 micrograms misoprostol pre-operatively, or placebo. The achievement of 'satisfactory' (> or = 7 mm) baseline cervical dilatation after 2-4 hours was evaluated as the primary outcome. Secondary outcome measurements included ease and duration of the procedure. Side-effects such as pre-operative bleeding, gastro-intestinal complaints and pain as well as adverse events were noted in all cases.


Self-administration of vaginal misoprostol was successful in all women and 273 women were evaluated for main end-points. A significantly larger proportion of patients in the treatment group reached cervical dilatation of > or = 7 mm (67.3% v. 30.9%, P < 0.0001). The side-effects were minimal and comparable in the two groups. In the treatment group the mean procedure duration was significantly shorter (220 seconds v. 321 seconds, P = 0.0013) and the procedure was more likely to be rated by the operator as 'easy' (81.8% v. 63.3%, P = 0.0082). This resulted in a significant reduction in treatment failure in the < 70-day gestation group (5.0% v. 14.7%, P = 0.005).


It is feasible, safe and effective for 600 micrograms misoprostol to be self-administered vaginally 2-4 hours pre-operatively for cervical priming prior to manual vacuum aspiration. Further research is needed to establish optimal use in the first trimester and to determine patient acceptance.

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