Second-trimester surgical abortion practices in the United States

White KO

Jones HE

Shorter J

Norman WV

Guilbert E

Lichtenberg S

Paul M

Aug 2018
Abstract Objective To assess whether second-trimester surgical abortion practices of U.S. providers agree with evidence-based policy guidelines.   Study Design We conducted a cross-sectional survey of abortion facilities in the U.S. identified via publicly available resources and professional networks from June through December 2013.   Results Of 703 identified facilities, 383 (54%) participated, including 172 clinicians providing second-trimester surgical abortions (dilation and evacuations [D&Es]). The majority of clinicians were obstetrician–gynecologists (87%), female (67%), and less than 50 years old (62%). Most clinicians (93%) ever use misoprostol as a cervical preparation agent, including in the setting of a uterine scar (87%). Some clinicians refer to a hospital-based provider if the patient has a placenta previa and a history of cesarean section (31%) or a complete previa alone (17%). Many clinicians have weight or body mass index restrictions for cases performed under iv moderate sedation (32/97, 33%) or deep sedation (23/50, 46%). Most clinicians (69%) who report performing D&Es at 18 weeks last menstrual period or greater do not routinely induce fetal demise preoperatively. Clinicians employ routine intraoperative ultrasound (79%) more commonly than routine postoperative ultrasound (47%), with no difference by years of provider experience. Most clinicians routinely use prophylactic uterotonic agents, most often postoperatively. Most clinicians (80%) routinely give perioperative antibiotics, most often doxycycline (75%).   Conclusion Overall, the second-trimester surgical abortion practices revealed in our survey agree with professional evidence-based policy guidelines. Wider variability was reported for practices lacking a strong evidence base.   Implications In this third cross-sectional survey of U.S. abortion practices (prior 1997 and 2002), second-trimester surgical abortion providers are younger than before, reflecting an improvement in the “graying” of the abortion provider workforce. Facility restrictions on gestational age along with hospital restrictions on referrals pose barriers to outpatient abortion access.