Hospitals Should Test More Teen Girls for Pregnancy, Study Suggests

Tests are recommended for girls who have abdominal pain or are receiving X-rays, CT scans

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TUESDAY, Oct. 23 (HealthDay News) -- Few teen girls are tested for pregnancy at U.S. hospital emergency departments, even if they complain of lower abdominal pain or before they undergo radiation-based tests, a large new study finds.

Researchers analyzed data on 77 million girls, aged 14 to 21, who were examined at U.S. hospital emergency departments from 2000 to 2009. Of those girls, only 14.5 million (about 19 percent) underwent pregnancy testing.

Of girls who reported abdominal pain, about 42 percent received pregnancy testing. Of patients who were exposed to radiation that could cause birth defects (such as chest X-ray or CT scan), only 28 percent received a pregnancy test.

The researchers also found disparities in pregnancy testing based on age, race and insurance.

The study was presented Sunday at the American Academy of Pediatrics' national conference in New Orleans.

"We were surprised to find that pregnancy testing occurred infrequently," study author Dr. Monika Goyal said in an American Academy of Pediatrics news release. "It was particularly concerning that rates of pregnancy testing were low even among females with potential reproductive health complaints or with exposure to radiation through diagnostic testing, like CT scans."

She said the "findings underscore the need to develop quality improvement interventions to increase pregnancy testing in adolescent girls in the emergency department, especially among those with higher risk of pregnancy complications."

Because this study was presented at a medical meeting, the data and conclusions should be viewed as preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about teen pregnancy.

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