Is a speculum examination sufficient for excluding the diagnosis of ruptured fetal membranes?

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Abstract

Objective.

To determine the false negative rate of a sterile speculum examination for the diagnosis of rupture of the membranes in women not in labor and without visible amniotic fluid at speculum examination. Furthermore, possible risks to the mother and the baby after suspected rupture of the membranes were analyzed.

Study design.

In women not in labor with suspected rupture of the membranes between gestational weeks 34 and 42, a sterile speculum examination was performed. If no amniotic fluid was visible, a test for Diamine oxidase was carried out. The results of tests were not known to the obstetricians or the women. The women were allowed to return home with no further controls if no amniotic fluid was visible at the speculum examination. Neonatal and obstetric outcome was recorded prospectively.

Results.

Of 27,502 deliveries, 2,099 women not in labor attended the delivery ward for suspected rupture of the membranes after week 34. Amniotic fluid was visualized in 1,580 women. In 519 women in whom no amniotic fluid was seen at the speculum examination, the Diamine oxidase test was negative in 456 and positive in 63. Antibiotics were given to eleven children (2.4%) in the group with a negative Diamine oxidase and to one infant (1.6%) in the positive Diamine oxidase group (p>0.05). No differences in obstetric outcome were recorded.

Conclusions.

The false negative rate of a speculum examination for the diagnosis of rupture of the membranes in women without amniotic fluid visible at a speculum examination was 12% when Diamine oxidase was used as the standard for the diagnosis of rupture of the membranes. This study did not show any disadvantages for mothers and infants if the women were sent home after a false negative speculum examination. The value of biochemical methods in the management of women not in labor with rupture of the membranes after thirty-four weeks of gestation could be questioned.

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