An ectopic pregnancy occurs when a fertilized egg attaches somewhere other than in the uterus, usually in a fallopian tube (tubal pregnancy). Because an ectopic pregnancy can cause life-threatening complications, the pregnancy must be ended with medicine or surgery.
When a fertilized egg attaches to a fallopian tube, it can be dangerous because the pregnancy can break into blood vessels. If a tubal pregnancy is not detected and treated early, the blood vessels may burst. This can be a life-threatening situation and requires emergency surgery.
Pelvic inflammatory disease or tubal surgery increases the risk of having an ectopic or tubal pregnancy by creating scar tissue that may block the fallopian tube.
Last Revised: September 22, 2010
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review: Sarah Marshall, MD - Family Medicine & Rebecca H. Allen, MD, MPH - Obstetrics and Gynecology
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