The generic term for the treatment of an ectopic pregnancy seems to be "embryectomy":

ἐκ (ek, “out”) + τέμνω (témnō, “to cut”)

Stedman, Practical Medical Dictionary (1916), p. 302 calls embryectomy

The operative removal of the product of conception, especially in ectopic pregnancy.

Anderson, K. A., L. E. Anderson, Angie Dröber, and Ute Villwock. “E.” In Springer Lexikon Pflege, edited by K. A. Anderson, L. E. Anderson, Angie Dröber, and Ute Villwock, 264–319. Berlin, Heidelberg: Springer, 2002, 281:

Embryektomie. Operatives Entfernen eines Embryos, z.B. bei einer ektopischen Schwangerschaft.
[griech.: bryein, wachsen, ektome, ausschneiden.]
• embryectomy

Embryectomy. Surgical removal of an embryo, e.g., in an ectopic pregnancy.
[Greek: bryein, to grow, ectome, to cut out.]
• embryectomy.

However, I see the term is rarely used in recent medical literature. A Google Ngram search reveals:

embryectomy Ngram

"Salpingectomy" is much more common (embryectomy, salpingectomy Ngram):

enter image description here

Is embryectomy still the proper medical term for the treatment of any type of ectopic pregnancy, or is a different term used?

Note: I'm interested in the generic term covering all types of ectopic (extra-uterine) pregnancies, not just those that occur in the Fallopian tube.

If it is a tubal ectopic pregnancy, a salpingectomy is done, and this term is in current use in more modern medical books:

From salping- (“of or relating to the salpinx [Fallopian tube]”) +‎ -ectomy (“surgical removal”)

which involves a simultaneous embryectomy.

Cf. the etymology of "ectopic":

ἐκ (ek, “out”) + -topic τόπος (tópos, “place”)


1 Answer 1


The word is not and has never been used by doctors and medical researchers outside of animal studies, which probably explains why some medical dictionaries include it. Therefore, the peaks of usage shown in the Ngram must have all been found within non-medical contexts.

I draw this conclusion based on Google Scholar searches for the word "embryectomy" in four time spans: 1900-2023, 1900-1965, 1900-1960, and 1800-1900. The number of hits found for each range were 49, 4, 1, and 0, respectively. Examination of the hits did not reveal a single usage in a human medical context. There were a few animal studies that mentioned it, and some botanical studies, but nothing related to human medicine.

  • I suspect doctors never really used that term, regardless of Steadman's definition. I have never heard it, and I'm old. I suspect it was pushback terminology from anti-abortionists (laypeople) to lay bare the procedure. We all know what an abortion involves. Commented Oct 10, 2023 at 22:16
  • 1
    Not all abortions are induced medically. But I think @anongoodnurse is pretty much right. When I look at your first Ngraph I see a big spike in use of the word right about the time abortion was becoming a political issue, then a big drop right around Roe v Wade. There's another spike in the early 1980s and I suspect that's the emergence of organized anti-abortion activists. But then there's a steady downhill slide into nothingness. But when I search Google Scholar, I get a very different picture. Basically, doctors and medical researchers don't use the word and never did.
    – Carey Gregory
    Commented Oct 11, 2023 at 0:41
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    @Geremia Tell that to the anti-abortion activists who were using the word so much when medical professionals weren't.
    – Carey Gregory
    Commented Oct 11, 2023 at 4:02
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    My apologies to the upvoter for rewriting my answer after you voted.
    – Carey Gregory
    Commented Oct 11, 2023 at 19:24
  • 2
    I had upvoted your answer before being "encouraged" to think about it more. So that vote stays, and I'm grateful for the edit. Commented Oct 11, 2023 at 19:31

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