Transvaginal sonographic markers of tubal inflammatory disease

Ultrasound Obstet Gynecol. 1998 Jul;12(1):56-66. doi: 10.1046/j.1469-0705.1998.12010056.x.


Objectives: Since the introduction of transvaginal sonography (TVS), clear pictures of the female reproductive tract have been obtained. These images enable the accurate description of Fallopian tube pathology. However, the current literature on the ultrasound diagnosis of pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) is confusing and contradictory. The goal of our study was to identify sonographic markers of inflammatory disease of the pelvis and to place these in a clinical context.

Patients and methods: Seventy-seven patients were scanned by TVS. They were divided into two groups, according to their clinical picture, the first group with acute PID and the second with a history of chronic PID or no history at all. The sonographic markers studied were shape, wall structure and wall thickness of the Fallopian tube. Ovarian involvement and the presence of pelvic fluid were also evaluated.

Results: The best marker of tubal inflammatory disease, either acute or chronic, was the presence of an incomplete septum of the tubal wall, which was present in 92% of the total cases. A thick wall and the 'cogwheel' sign were sensitive markers of acute disease, whereas a thin wall and 'beads-on-a-string' sign were indicators of chronic disease. Palpable findings and surgical history were not discriminatory, but were present in three-quarters and one-third of the study population, respectively. Three false-positive cases are presented: an ovarian cystadenoma, an appendiceal mucocele and one case with periovarian fluid accumulation.

Conclusions: The tubo-ovarian complex and the tubo-ovarian abscess should be considered separate entities that differ in their clinical implications. TVS allows one to distinguish between them. Distinguishing characteristics of acute and chronic salpingitis are presented.

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Chronic Disease
  • Endosonography*
  • Fallopian Tubes / diagnostic imaging
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Ovary / diagnostic imaging
  • Pelvic Inflammatory Disease / diagnostic imaging*
  • Reference Values
  • Salpingitis / diagnostic imaging*
  • Sensitivity and Specificity