Pelvic inflammatory disease

Last updated: February 24, 2022

Summarytoggle arrow icon

Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) is caused by a bacterial infection that spreads beyond the cervix to infect the upper female reproductive tract, including the uterus, fallopian tubes, ovaries, and surrounding tissue. The most common pathogens that cause PID are Chlamydia and Gonococci. Symptoms may vary considerably; while some women are asymptomatic, others may complain of mild pressure pain and discharge or present with signs of systemic inflammation, such as fever and severe abdominal pain. Diagnosis is based on clinical findings and may be supported by ultrasound, PCR, and/or cultures of cervical and urethral discharges. Calculated parenteral antibiotic therapy is indicated in women with suspected PID. Most common complications include infertility, ectopic pregnancy, and chronic pelvic pain.

Epidemiologytoggle arrow icon

  • Lifetime prevalence: ∼ 4.5% in women of reproductive age (18–44 years) [1]
  • > 1 million women experience an episode of PID/year. [2]
  • PID is one of the most common causes of infertility. [1]

Epidemiological data refers to the US, unless otherwise specified.

Etiologytoggle arrow icon

Clinical featurestoggle arrow icon

Diagnosticstoggle arrow icon

Diagnosis is primarily based on clinical findings. Further diagnostic tests help confirm the diagnosis, especially in ambiguous cases.

PID may manifest with symptoms of appendicitis due to periappendicitis or perihepatitis. Symptoms may also mimic ectopic pregnancy.

PID should be suspected in young, sexually active women who present with lower abdominal pain and adnexal/cervical motion tenderness.

Differential diagnosestoggle arrow icon

Differential diagnosis of lower abdominal pain in women of reproductive age
Disorder Clinical features Diagnostic clues Therapy
Ectopic pregnancy
  • Cervical discharge
  • CMT
Kidney stones
  • Unilateral colicky flank pain
  • Pain may radiate to the lower abdomen and genital area.
  • Destruction or removal of stone
Ovarian cyst rupture
  • Sudden onset unilateral lower abdominal pain
  • Usually after physical activity (exercise, sexual intercourse)
  • Minimal vaginal bleeding (spotting) can occur.
Ovarian torsion
Pelvic cellulitis [11]

Cervicitis [12]

The differential diagnoses listed here are not exhaustive.

Treatmenttoggle arrow icon

Empirical antibiotic therapy (also consider coinfections) [1][3]

It is better to overtreat rather than delay treatment if PID is suspected.

Complicationstoggle arrow icon

We list the most important complications. The selection is not exhaustive.

Referencestoggle arrow icon

  1. 2015 Sexually Transmitted Diseases Treatment Guidelines - Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID). Updated: June 4, 2015. Accessed: July 3, 2017.
  2. Sweet RL, Gibbs RS. Infectious Diseases of the Female Genital Tract. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins ; 2012
  3. Gradison M. Pelvic inflammatory disease.. Am Fam Physician. 2012; 85 (8): p.791-6.
  4. Van de Wijgert JHHM, Jespers V. The global health impact of vaginal dysbiosis. Res Microbiol. 2017; 168 (9-10): p.859-864.doi: 10.1016/j.resmic.2017.02.003 . | Open in Read by QxMD
  5. Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID).,-cervicitis,-and-pelvic-inflammatory-disease-pid/pelvic-inflammatory-disease-pid. Updated: January 1, 2015. Accessed: April 9, 2017.
  6. Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID) Statistics. Updated: January 27, 2017. Accessed: April 9, 2017.
  7. Ross J, Chacko MR. Pelvic inflammatory disease: Clinical manifestations and diagnosis. In: Post TW, ed. UpToDate. Waltham, MA: UpToDate. Last updated: June 13, 2016. Accessed: February 17, 2017.
  8. Jaiyeoba O, Soper DE. A Practical Approach to the Diagnosis of Pelvic Inflammatory Disease. Infect Dis Obstet Gynecol. 2011; 2011: p.1-6.doi: 10.1155/2011/753037 . | Open in Read by QxMD
  9. Bieber EJ, Horowitz IR, Sanfilippo JS. Clinical Gynecology. ScienceDirect ; 2006
  10. Lachiewicz MP, Moulton LJ, Jaiyeoba O. Pelvic surgical site infections in gynecologic surgery.. Infect Dis Obstet Gynecol. 2015; 2015: p.614950.doi: 10.1155/2015/614950 . | Open in Read by QxMD
  11. Cervicitis. Updated: January 27, 2020. Accessed: September 30, 2020.
  12. Mushlin SB, Greene HL. Decision Making in Medicine. Elsevier Health Sciences ; 2009
  13. Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID). . Accessed: September 30, 2020.
  14. Fitz Hugh Curtis Syndrome. Updated: April 9, 2017. Accessed: April 9, 2017.

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