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Ultrasound Obstet Gynecol. 2004 Jul;24(1):62-6.

Should we be examining the ovaries in pregnancy? Prevalence and natural history of adnexal pathology detected at first-trimester sonography.

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Early Pregnancy, Gynaecological Ultrasound and Minimal Access Surgery Unit, St George's Hospital Medical School, London, UK.



To assess the prevalence and natural history of ovarian pathology in pregnancy.


Three thousand consecutive pregnant women presenting before 14 weeks' gestation at the early pregnancy unit at St George's Hospital, London, underwent ultrasound examination during which both ovaries were visualized. Women found to have a simple ovarian cyst with a minimum diameter > or =25 mm or a complex ovarian cyst of any size were included in the study. They were followed up with ultrasound scans every 4-6 weeks until either resolution of the ovarian cyst occurred, intervention was required or the pregnancy was concluded. If the cyst persisted at 20 weeks' gestation, these women were rescanned 6 weeks after conclusion of the pregnancy. Women were managed expectantly throughout their pregnancy.


One hundred and sixty one women with a total of 166 cysts were included for analysis. At presentation, 43.7% of the women were asymptomatic and 56.3% had pain and/or vaginal bleeding. The mean gestational age at presentation was 53 (range, 28-98) days, the mean maternal age was 30 (range, 17-42) years, and the mean ovarian cyst diameter was 48 (range, 12-115) mm. The first-trimester pregnancy diagnoses were 106 intrauterine pregnancies, 40 miscarriages, five ectopic pregnancies, three pregnancies of unknown location and seven terminations of pregnancy. The sonographic features of the ovarian cysts included: 117 simple and anechoic, 21 hemorrhagic, 16 with mixed echogenicity, seven with a ground-glass appearance, three solid/cystic with papillary projections and two with low-level echoes. One hundred and nineteen (71.7%) of the cysts resolved spontaneously and were presumed to be physiological, 40 (24.1%) persisted and seven (4.2%) required intervention, four of these as an emergency because of pain. There was one case of borderline malignancy and no cases of malignancy. Five (3.0%) of the cysts underwent torsion. Only 0.13% (4/3000) of all women who initially presented to our unit required acute intervention during their pregnancy.


The majority of cysts detected in early pregnancy are physiological and resolve. Very few persist and intervention during the pregnancy is rarely indicated. The expectant management of ovarian cysts detected in the first trimester is safe and should be encouraged. Examining the ovaries in the first trimester is of limited value.

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