Limitations of current definitions of miscarriage using mean gestational sac diameter and crown–rump length measurements: a multicenter observational study




There is significant variation in cut-off values for mean gestational sac diameter (MSD) and embryo crown–rump length (CRL) used to define miscarriage, values suggested in the literature ranging from 13 to 25 mm for MSD and from 3 to 8 mm for CRL. We aimed to define the false-positive rate (FPR) for the diagnosis of miscarriage associated with different CRL and MSD measurements with or without a yolk sac in a large study population of patients attending early pregnancy clinics. We also aimed to define cut-off values for CRL and MSD that, on the basis of a single measurement, can definitively diagnose a miscarriage and so exclude possible inadvertent termination of pregnancy.


This was an observational cross-sectional study. Data were collected prospectively according to a predefined protocol. Intrauterine pregnancy of uncertain viability (IPUV) was defined as an empty gestational sac or sac with a yolk sac but no embryo seen with MSD < 20 or < 30 mm or an embryo with an absent heartbeat and CRL < 6 mm or < 8 mm. We recruited to the study 1060 consecutive women with IPUV. The endpoint was presence or absence of a viable pregnancy at the time of first-trimester screening ultrasonography between 11 and 14 weeks. The sensitivity, specificity, positive and negative predictive values were calculated for potential cut-off values to define miscarriage from MSD 8 to 30 mm with or without a yolk sac and from CRL 3 to 8 mm.


Of the 1060 women with a diagnosis of IPUV, 473 remained viable and 587 were non-viable by the time of the 11–14-week scan. In the absence of both embryo and yolk sac, the FPR for miscarriage was 4.4% when an MSD cut-off of 16 mm was used and 0.5% for a cut-off of 20 mm. There were no false-positive test results for miscarriage when a cut-off of MSD ≥ 21 mm was used. If a yolk sac was present but an embryo was not, the FPR for miscarriage was 2.6% for an MSD cut-off of 16 mm and 0.4% for a cut-off of 20 mm, with no false-positive results when a cut-off of MSD ≥ 21 mm was used. When an embryo was visible with an absent heartbeat, using a CRL cut-off of 4 mm the FPR for miscarriage was 8.3%, and for a CRL cut-off of 5 mm it was also 8.3%. There were no false-positive results using a CRL cut-off of ≥ 5.3 mm.


These data show that some current definitions used to diagnose miscarriage are potentially unsafe. Current national guidelines should be reviewed to avoid inadvertent termination of wanted pregnancies. An MSD cut-off of > 25 mm and a CRL cut-off of > 7 mm could be introduced to minimize the risk of a false-positive diagnosis of miscarriage. Copyright © 2011 ISUOG. Published by John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.