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Lancet. 2006 Dec 2;368(9551):1965-72.

Rates of complication in first-trimester manual vacuum aspiration abortion done by doctors and mid-level providers in South Africa and Vietnam: a randomised controlled equivalence trial.

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UNDP/UNFPA/WHO/World Bank Special Programme of Research, Development and Research Training in Human Reproduction, Department of Reproductive Health and Research, WHO, Geneva 1211, Switzerland.



We assessed whether the safety of first-trimester manual vacuum aspiration abortion done by health-care providers who are not doctors (mid-level providers) is equivalent to that of procedures done by doctors in South Africa and Vietnam, where mid-level providers are government trained and accredited to do first-trimester abortions.


We did a randomised, two-sided controlled equivalence trial to compare rates of complication in abortions done by the two groups of providers. An a-priori margin of equivalence of 4.5% with 80% power and 95% CI (alpha=0.05) was used. 1160 women participated in South Africa and 1734 in Vietnam. Women presenting for an induced abortion at up to 12 weeks' gestation were randomly assigned to a doctor or a mid-level provider for manual vacuum aspiration and followed-up 10-14 days later. The primary outcome was complication of abortion. Complications were recorded during the abortion procedure, before discharge from the clinic, and at follow-up. Per-protocol and intention-to-treat analyses were done. This trial is registered at with the identifier .


In both countries, rates of complication satisfied the predetermined statistical criteria for equivalence: rates per 100 patients in South Africa were 1.4 (eight of 576) for mid-level providers and 0 for doctors (difference 1.4, 95% CI 0.4 to 2.7); in Vietnam, rates were 1.2 (ten of 824) for mid-level providers and 1.2 (ten of 812) for doctors (difference 0.0, 95% CI -1.2 to 1.1). There was one immediate complication related to analgesics. Delayed complications were caused by retained products and infection.


With appropriate government training, mid-level health-care providers can provide first trimester manual vacuum aspiration abortions as safely as doctors can.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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