ACOG Committee Opinion No. 754: The Utility of and Indications for Routine Pelvic Examination

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Abstract

The pelvic examination has long been considered a fundamental component of the well-woman visit, and many women and gynecologic care providers view this visit as an opportunity to discuss sexual and reproductive health issues. Traditionally, a pelvic examination is performed for asymptomatic women as a screening tool for gynecologic cancer, infection, and asymptomatic pelvic inflammatory disease; some obstetrician–gynecologists and patients consider it important in detecting subclinical disease, despite evidence to the contrary. Given changes in screening recommendations and the ability to screen for sexually transmitted infections using less-invasive methods, reevaluation of the role of the pelvic examination for asymptomatic, nonpregnant women is warranted. A limited number of studies have evaluated the benefits and harms of a screening pelvic examination for detection of ovarian cancer, bacterial vaginosis, trichomoniasis, and genital herpes. Data from these studies are inadequate to support a recommendation for or against performing a routine screening pelvic examination among asymptomatic, nonpregnant women who are not at increased risk of any specific gynecologic condition. It is recommended by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists that pelvic examinations be performed when indicated by medical history or symptoms. Women with current or a history of cervical dysplasia, gynecologic malignancy, or in utero diethylstilbestrol exposure should be screened and managed according to guidelines specific to those gynecologic conditions. Based on the current limited data on potential benefits and harms and expert opinion, the decision to perform a pelvic examination should be a shared decision between the patient and her obstetrician–gynecologist or other gynecologic care provider.

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