Women may seek abortion at gestations when there is no visible intrauterine pregnancy on ultrasound scanning. Clinical protocols for pregnancy of unknown location (PUL) require measurement of serum human chorionic gonadotrophin (hCG), with the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence recommending that values above 1500 IU/L be further investigated to exclude ectopic pregnancy. Our aim was to determine whether a point-of-care test (POCT) could be used instead of laboratory serum hCG measurement.
Over 12 months, women who presented to an abortion service with a PUL had a POCT for blood or urine hCG and laboratory serum hCG measurement. The POCT machine used provides a discrete hCG value below 1000 IU/L and above this gives results as a range. The sensitivity and specificity of the POCT in identifying cases where laboratory serum hCG results were above 1500 IU/L were calculated.
A total of 118 women presented with a PUL, of whom 70 had a POCT on blood (n=49) or urine (n=21) and a corresponding laboratory serum hCG. The sensitivity of the blood POCT was 0.67 (95% CI 0.38 to 0.87) and the specificity was 0.97 (95% CI 0.83 to 0.99). The sensitivity of the urine POCT was 0.25 (CI 0.01 to 0.78) and the specificity was 0.94 (CI 0.69 to 0.99).
Although both the blood and urine POCTs had a high level of specificity, neither test was acceptably sensitive. While promising, this POCT for hCG is not sufficiently reliable to replace laboratory serum hCG testing in the management of women with PUL in an abortion service.