Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID)


Pelvic inflammatory disease is an ascending pelvic infection involving the upper genital tract.

It usually involves sexually transmitted organisms e.g. Neisseria gonorrhoeae and Chlamydia trachomatis.

It may also be caused by organisms endogenous to the lower genital tract.

In severe cases, organisms may migrate via the peritoneum to the upper abdomen causing perihepatic adhesions: the so-called “violin strings” (Fitz-Hugh-Curtis syndrome).

Responsible for significant morbidity in
women, accounting for about 30% of all
gynaecological admissions in sub-Saharan Africa.

It is thought that 3% of women have Pelvic Disease Inflammatory (PID) during their lifetime

Risk factors

  • Age:
    • Peak incidence between 15-25 years
  • Sexual activity:
    • Multiplicity of sexual partners
  • Use of intrauterine contraceptive devices:
    • Usually within the first 4 months of use
  • Previous episode(s) of PID

Clinical features

Major criteria (the Westrom triad):

  • Lower abdominal pain and tenderness
  • Cervical excitation tenderness
  • Adnexal tenderness

Minor criteria

  • Fever (38 degrees C)
  • Leucocytosis
  • Purulent vaginal discharge
  • Adnexal mass


  • Based on the presence of the Westrom triad of symptomatology plus one of the minor criteria
  • Confirmation by demonstration of causative organism(s) on microscopy, culture and sensitivity testing

Differential diagnoses

  • Ovarian cyst accident
  • Endometriosis
  • Acute appendicitis
  • Ectopic gestation
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Renal disorders (e.g. nephrolithiasis)
  • Pelvic adhesions
  • Lower lobe pneumonia


  • Septicaemia
  • Pelvic abscess
  • Chronic pelvic pain
  • Fitz-Hugh-Curtis syndrome
  • Recurrence (about 25% rates)
  • Infertility
  • Ectopic gestation


  • Packed cell volume
  • White Blood Cell count
  • Endocervical swab
  • High vaginal swab culture: to exclude trichomoniasis, bacterial vaginosis
  • Haemoglobin genotype
  • Blood Group
  • Electrolytes and Urea
  • Midstream urine microscopy, culture and sensitivity
  • Urethral swab
  • Ultrasound scan: to exclude cyesis, ectopic gestation, adnexal mass (e.g. ovarian mass)

Indications for admission

  • Uncertain diagnosis
  • Intolerance of oral medication or non response to outpatient therapy.
  • Presence of an intrauterine device
  • Presence of a pelvic mass
  • Upper abdominal pain
  • Non-adherence to therapy
  • Pregnancy
  • Nulliparity

Treatment objectives

  • Rehydrate adequately
  • Eradicate the infecting organism(s)
  • Prevent complications.

Drug treatment

  • Appropriate antibiotics for an adequate period
  • The antibiotic chosen should cover all possible causative organisms while awaiting culture/sensitivity results

Outpatient therapy

(while awaiting culture results):

1. Ceftriaxone (or equivalent cephalosporin)

  • 1g intramuscularly stat


2. Doxycycline

  • 100 mg orally every 12 hours for 14 days

Plus or minus:

2. Metronidazole

  • 400 mg orally every 12 hours for 14 days

If no response in 48-72 hours, admit, re-evaluate and give appropriate intravenous therapy

Inpatient triple therapy

Ceftriaxone/ doxycycline/ metronidazole


Clindamycin/ gentamicin/ metronidazole

Triple antibiotic regimen to be continued for 48 hours after the patient improves clinically.

Subsequently, the patient should continue therapy with


  • 100 mg orally every 12 hours



  • 400 mg orally every 8 hours for 10-14 days


  • Encourage the use of barrier contraceptive with spermicides
  • Modify risky sexual behaviour: avoid, multiplicity of sexual partners
  • Contact tracing: to break the existing chain of infection and prevent recurrence
  • Prompt diagnosis and treatment to prevent long-term complications

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