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N Engl J Med. 1994 Aug 4;331(5):310-4.

Septic abortion.

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Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Maine Medical Center, Portland 04102.



Abortion-related deaths, which account for 47% of total maternal mortality in the world, result primarily from sepsis and are widespread in developing countries where abortion is illegal or inaccessible. Septic abortion offers opportunities for prevention on the primary, secondary, and tertiary level of medial care. Primary prevention of septic abortion encompasses the provision of effective contraception, provision of safe and legal abortion in cases of contraceptive failure, and appropriate medical management of abortion. Secondary prevention involves the prompt diagnosis of endometriosis and effective treatment to avert more serious infection. The diagnosis of septic abortion should be considered when women of reproductive age present to health facilities with vaginal bleeding, lower abdominal pain, and fever. Tertiary prevention is aimed at avoiding the serious complications of postabortal infection, including hysterectomy and death. Women with high fever, pelvic peritonitis, and tachycardia should undergo uterine evacuation and parental antibiotic therapy. Supportive care for cardiovascular system and other organs may be essential. The medical technology needed to avert serious complications and deaths from septic abortion is available. Lacking is a political commitment on the part of many governments and health care agencies to address this avoidable contributor to maternal morbidity and mortality.

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