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Female reproductive organs

Salpingitis is an inflammation of the fallopian tubes, which are long, thin ducts that connect the uterus to the ovaries.

What is going on in the body?
Usually a woman has two fallopian tubes. Their purpose is to carry eggs from the ovaries to the uterus, and sperm from the uterus towards the ovary. The inner lining of the fallopian tubes is very delicate and sensitive to any infection. Fluid, pus, or bacteria can easily cause swelling, infection, and damage in them.

The inflammation is called acute when it occurs suddenly. When it lasts for a long period of time, it is called chronic.

What are the signs and symptoms of the condition?
Symptoms of salpingitis vary, depending on the cause and severity. They may include: What are the causes and risks of the condition?
Often salpingitis is caused by a bacterial or viral infection that rises from the vagina, cervix, or uterus to the fallopian tubes. Possible causes of salpingitis include: A woman who has sexual intercourse during adolescence, or who has multiple sexual partners, is at a higher risk.

What can be done to prevent the condition?
Prevention of salpingitis is not always possible. Practicing safer sex may decrease the risk. Early treatment of pelvic inflammatory disease and other infections helps prevent salpingitis.

How is the condition diagnosed?
The diagnosis of salpingitis is based on the symptoms, the medical history, and the personal history. A pelvic examination is usually done to check for tenderness, vaginal discharge, and swelling. The doctor may order additional tests, such as:
  • an x-ray scan of the fallopian tubes, called salpingography
  • laparoscopy, a procedure in which a thin lighted tube is inserted into the abdomen to allow the doctor to look at the fallopian tubes and other organs
  • blood tests, including a full blood count or FBC, to check for infection
  • a culture of the vaginal discharge
What are the long-term effects of the condition?
Salpingitis can cause many long-term effects, including:
  • infertility from blocked fallopian tubes
  • adhesions or scar tissue in the fallopian tubes
  • ectopic pregnancy, or a pregnancy in which the foetus develops outside the uterus
  • chronic pelvic pain
  • recurrent pelvic infections
  • the need for a hysterectomy
What are the risks to others?
Salpingitis itself is not contagious and poses no risk to others. If the cause is a sexually transmitted disease, such as gonorrhoea or chlamydia infection, the infection is contagious.

What are the treatments for the condition?
Early and prompt treatment is needed to prevent serious damage and long-term effects from salpingitis. Treatment usually involves antibiotics, bed rest, and analgesics. The woman is often hospitalised so symptoms and treatment can be monitored. If a woman has an IUD, it may need to be removed once antibiotics have been started. Intravenous fluids and antibiotics may be given into a vein in the arm. Surgery may be needed to remove scar tissue or even the fallopian tube. In severe cases, the uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries may need to be removed.

What are the side effects of the treatments?
Antibiotics may cause stomach upset, headache, or allergic reactions. Surgery poses a risk of bleeding, infection, and allergic reaction to anaesthesia.

What happens after treatment for the condition?
For some minor cases of salpingitis, no further treatment is needed. For more serious disease, treatment may need to continue.

How is the condition monitored?
Close monitoring of salpingitis is needed because of the possible long-term effects. Any new or worsening symptoms should be reported to the doctor.

Author: Eileen McLaughlin, RN, BSN
Reviewer: HealthAnswers Australia Medical Review Panel
Editor: Dr David Taylor, Chief Medical Officer HealthAnswers Australia
Last Updated: 1/10/2001
Potential conflict of interest information for reviewers available on request

This website and article is not a substitute for independent professional advice. Nothing contained in this website is intended to be used as medical advice and it is not intended to be used to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease, nor should it be used for therapeutic purposes or as a substitute for your own health professional's advice.  All Health and any associated parties do not accept any liability for any injury, loss or damage incurred by use of or reliance on the information.


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