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Pelvic Inflammatory Disease

Inflammation in and around female pelvic organs, especially the reproductive organs, usually results from an infection from bacteria that travel up from the vagina, cervix or uterus. This common type of infection should be taken seriously, as it can spread or linger and cause damage.

Pelvic inflammatory disease most often stems from a sexually transmitted disease (STD), but it can also result from an infection from other routes (including, an irritation or injury to the genitourinary system or, rarely, an abdominal infection from an intrauterine device, miscarriage, abortion, childbirth or pelvic surgical procedure.) Thus, “pelvic inflammatory disease” is a general term encompassing inflammation of the uterus, fallopian tubes or ovaries, and nearby tissues and organs, due most often to bacterial infection (but sometimes also, or preceded by, viral, fungal or parasitic infection.)

Patients with signs of an internal gynecologic infection should seek care immediately to prevent damage to reproductive organs and the pelvic area.

Identify and Treat Early to Avoid Complications

Younger sexually active women are at greatest risk for this disease. Infection causing this disease usually comes from chlamydia or gonorrhea. But the infections that create the condition may not be apparent for an extended time, as the nonspecific symptoms (pain, fever, discharge, bleeding) – while sometimes acute and severe – are often mild and sporadic. Ongoing inflammation may cause additional organ damage. Most patients do not realize they have pelvic inflammatory disease at the time they are diagnosed. The disease can sometimes bring on peritonitis or lead to abscess, which requires urgent treatment. Infection in pelvic inflammatory disease is treated with antibiotics.

If the patient receives aggressive treatment at an early stage, longer-term pelvic-inflammatory effects may be avoided. But inflammation of pelvic areas can cause scar tissue to form between and within the organs and connective tissue of the pelvis. This results in abnormal adhesions between structures, the stresses and pulling of which can result in ongoing pain (chronic pelvic pain) and functional problems, including infertility (see sidebar).

Pelvic inflammatory disease and infertility
Pelvic inflammatory disease is a risk factor for blocked fallopian tubes. In fact, for this reason, it is  the most common preventable cause of infertility in the U.S. Infection in pelvic inflammation usually reaches the uterus and fallopian tubes. In the body’s intense inflammatory response to the bacteria, the fallopian tubes may fill with white blood cells and fluid (pus). After the infection subsides, the delicate inner lining of the tubes (tubal mucosa) may be permanently scarred, and partly or completely blocked. This can prevent fertilization or can prevent the transit of the egg (but not access of sperm) making ectopic pregnancy more likely. Virtua’s accomplished gynecologic surgeons and reproductive endocrinologists can offer treatment for this condition and other solutions to the compromised fertility that may result.

Successful Solutions Available

Virtua gynecologists have extensive training and experience in diagnosing these inflammations and identifying their aftereffects, including using techniques of physical examination and blood testing. Evaluation may also include ultrasound, endometrial biopsy or laparoscopy.

The Virtua team is skilled in the antibiotic or other medical treatments for this condition, including inpatient treatment for acute pelvic inflammatory disease. They can offer state-of-the-science, minimally invasive, robotic surgery to address any internal scarring that results and causes long-term symptoms.

1-888-847-8823 (1-888-568-7337)

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