Acute pelvic pain in premenopausal women frequently poses a diagnostic dilemma. These patients may exhibit nonspecific signs and symptoms such as nausea, vomiting and leukocytosis. The cause of pelvic pain includes a myriad of diagnostic possibilities such as obstetric, gynecologic, urologic, gastrointestinal, and vascular etiologies. The choice of the imaging modality is usually determined by a suspected clinical differential diagnosis. Thus the patient should undergo careful evaluation and the suspected differential diagnosis should be narrowed before an optimal imaging modality is chosen. Transvaginal and transabdominal pelvic sonography is the modality of choice, to assess for pelvic pain, when an obstetric or gynecologic etiology is suspected and computed tomography is often more useful when gastrointestinal or genitourinary pathology is thought to be more likely. Magnetic resonance imaging, when available in the acute setting, is favored over computed tomography for assessing pregnant patients for nongynecologic etiologies owing to its lack of ionizing radiation.
The American College of Radiology Appropriateness Criteria® are evidence-based guidelines for specific clinical conditions that are reviewed every three years by a multidisciplinary expert panel. The guideline development and review include an extensive analysis of current medical literature from peer reviewed journals and the application of a well-established consensus methodology (modified Delphi) to rate the appropriateness of imaging and treatment procedures by the panel. In those instances where evidence is lacking or not definitive, expert opinion may be used to recommend imaging or treatment.