The diagnosis and management of abdominal and pelvic pain in women
can be challenging. While some diagnoses are obvious or nearly so,
others are elusive. While the diagnosis is most often made on the basis
of clinical history, the relative certainty of diagnosis is often strengthened
through the use of laboratory, imaging studies, and the physical
I'm going to provide you with some general guidelines and a structure
for evaluating patients with abdominal or pelvic pain, but I must
These insights do not apply well to an acutely traumatized patient
(a vehicular accident victim, for example).
They also don't apply well to post-op patients or postpartum
patients, where the issues can be quite different.
In this discussion, I am presuming that there is only one thing
wrong with the patient. Usually that's the case, but sometimes it's
A structured approach usually works best for for those learning these
skills, later, with more experience, you may skip over some parts of
this process. The process involves asking a series of questions
(history), examining the patient with an abdominal exam and pelvic exam
(exam), obtaining a set of vital signs, and some basic
laboratory tests. While learning these skills, you may find the Abdominal
and Pelvic Pain Patient Evaluation Form useful as a teaching aid.