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Ectopic Pregnancy Leaves Woman In Coma Hours After She's Discharged From Hospital

avila
An ectopic pregnancy has left a 36-year-old California woman in a coma. Photo screenshot of ABC News

Hours after being sent home from the ER with nothing more than a prescription of painkillers, Lisa Avila slipped into a coma. Upon her second visit to the ER, doctors revealed the California woman's pain was caused by a ruptured ectopic pregnancy. Unfortunately, because her condition was not diagnosed properly the first time, an otherwise minor medical condition has become life-threatening.

On Valentine’s Day morning, 12-week pregnant Avila woke up complaining of severe abdominal pain. ABC News reported that the 36-year-old was soon taken to the emergency room at Anaheim Regional Medical Center, where an ultrasound failed to reveal the nature of Avila’s pain. A doctor gave her a prescription for painkillers and discharged her, telling the mom-to-be that both she and her a baby were “fine.”

At the pharmacy, Avila stayed in the car while her husband ran inside to fill her prescription. Upon his return, he found his wife unconscious. It was only after Avila was rushed back to the same hospital, this time in the back of an ambulance, that the true nature of her pain was revealed: a ruptured ectopic pregnancy.

In conception, a fertilized egg implants into a woman’s uterine wall, where it grows. During ectopic pregnancies, the fertilized egg never makes it to the uterus and instead implants elsewhere, usually in the fallopian tubes. Although less common, the egg can also implant in the abdominal cavity, in an ovary, or in the cervix. Unfortunately, an egg cannot grow to full term outside of the uterus. If left untreated, the egg can destroy the mother’s body, and in extreme cases ruin her chances for future pregnancies and even cause death. Treatment for ectoptic pregnancies involves either a medical or surgical intervention to terminate the pregnancy.

The Inquistir reports that ectopic pregnancies occur in around one percent of all pregnancies in the U.S. In most cases, hospitals can detect the pregnancy early on and take the necessary steps to save the health of the mother. In some cases, such as Avila’s, the ultrasound cannot detect the ectopic pregnancy.

"Ruptured ectopic pregnancy is the number one cause of maternal mortality in the first trimester," said Dr. Jennifer Ashton, a senior medical contributor for ABC News and practicing OB/GYN. "If it ruptures, women can lose liters of blood very quickly."

Usually there is a protocol to avoid this. For example, Dr. Keith Eddleman, director of obstetrics at The Mount Sinai Hospital in Manhattan, told ABC News that if he doesn’t see a pregnancy inside the uterus despite a positive pregnancy test, "you have to assume it's ectopic until proven otherwise because it is life-threatening,"

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