Pelvic actinomycosis infection

Last revised by Dr Bahman Rasuli on 24 Nov 2020

Pelvic actinomycosis infection is a rare but serious infection caused by Actinomyces sp., an opportunistic gram-positive bacteria usually introduced by foreign bodies specially IUCDs, surgery, or trauma. It generally falls under the broader spectrum of pelvic inflammatory disease.

Pelvic infection from several Actinomyces sp. can occur, which include:

The organisms are indigenous in the oral cavity, gastrointestinal tract, and genital tract, with opportunistic infection occurring when the mucosal barrier is broken.

  • placement of intra-uterine contraceptive devices: usually when it has been present for a prolonged period
    • ~25% of IUCDs eventually get colonized by Actinomycosis sp.
    • 2-4% of IUCDs that are colonized ultimately develop a serious actinomycotic infection

Actinomycosis infection can mimic many other pelvic pathologies on imaging. The spread of infective/inflammatory change across tissue planes, and in particular retroperitoneal extension into the psoas muscle may suggest the diagnosis. The most common site of involvement of the GI system is the ileocecal junction.

  • tend to be denser than tubo-ovarian abscesses originating from other organisms
    • can mimic a locally invasive malignancy
  • enhancement in the solid component
  • rim-enhancing abscesses within the solid component
  • T2: intermediate-low signal intensity
  • post-contrast enhancement

Treatment is usually with IV penicillin in uncomplicated cases. The presence of an associated complication such as a tubo-ovarian abscess would warrant surgical intervention.

Due to its non-specific imaging appearances, pelvic actinomycosis can mimic several pathologies such as:

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Cases and figures

  • Case 1
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  • Case 2: related to longstanding IUD
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