Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID)

What is Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID)?

Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) is a clinical syndrome that results from the ascension of microorganisms from the cervix and vagina to the upper genital tract. PID can lead to infertility and permanent damage of a woman’s reproductive organs

Additional Information and Facts

CDC Fact Sheet on Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID)

Testing and Treatment

How is pelvic inflammatory disease diagnosed?

The wide variation in symptoms and signs associated with PID can make diagnosis challenging. No single historical, physical, or laboratory finding is both sensitive and specific for the diagnosis of PID. Clinicians should therefore maintain a low threshold for the diagnosis of PID, particularly in young, sexually active women. Criteria have been developed for the diagnosis of PID.Presumptive treatment for PID should be initiated in sexually active young women and other women at risk for STDs if they are experiencing pelvic or lower abdominal pain, if no cause for the illness other than PID can be identified, and if one or more of the following minimum clinical criteria are present on pelvic examination:

  • cervical motion tenderness
  • uterine tenderness
  • adnexal tenderness.

The requirement that all three minimum criteria be present before the initiation of empiric treatment could result in insufficient sensitivity for the diagnosis of PID. After deciding whether to initiate empiric treatment, clinicians should also consider the risk profile for STDs.

How is pelvic inflammatory disease treated?

PID is treated with broad spectrum antibiotics to cover likely pathogens. Several types of antibiotics can cure PID. Antibiotic treatment does not, however, reverse any scarring that has already been caused by the infection. For this reason, it is critical that a woman receive care immediately if she has pelvic pain or other symptoms of PID. Prompt antibiotic treatment could prevent severe damage to the reproductive organs.

Recommended treatment regimens can be found in the 2015 STD Treatment Guidelines. Health care providers should emphasize to their patients that although their symptoms may go away before the infection is cured, they should finish taking all of the prescribed medicine. Additionally, a woman’s sex partner(s) should be treated to decrease the risk of re-infection, even if the partner(s) has no symptoms. Although sex partners may have no symptoms, they may still be infected with the organisms that can cause PID. In certain cases, clinicians may recommend hospitalization to treat PID. This decision should be based on the judgment of the health care provider and the use of suggested criteria found in the 2015 STD Treatment Guidelines. If a woman’s symptoms continue, or if an abscess does not resolve, surgery may be needed.

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Page last updated 12/12/2018

Content source: Division of STD Prevention, National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Sexually Transmitted Diseases Treatment Guidelines, 2015. MMWR, 64(RR-3) (2015).