Pelvic Imaging through the Life Cycle

Imaging of the Female Pelvis through the Life Cycle

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Expected findings and physiologic changes in the normal female reproductive tract from birth through the postmenopausal years are discussed, with emphasis on the appearances of the uterus and ovaries at pelvic US, CT, and MR imaging.

The appearance of the normal reproductive tract on radiologic images changes dramatically over the female patient’s life span, reflecting the influence of hormones on these organs. In female children and adolescents, the appearance of the reproductive tract reflects the stage of sexual maturation. In women of reproductive age, physiologic changes such as those occurring in the corpus luteum are routinely imaged and must be distinguished from pathologic conditions. In the postmenopausal years, as reproductive hormone levels diminish, the endometrium and ovaries undergo progressive involution. Imaging findings that might be considered physiologic in younger women may represent pathologic or even neoplastic changes in postmenopausal women. Although postpartum imaging is typically performed in symptomatic patients, including those with greater than expected vaginal bleeding, suspected obstetric trauma, thromboembolic disease, or infectious complications, clinicians who interpret these radiologic results should be familiar with expected findings in asymptomatic patients after childbirth. Familiarity with the spectrum of ultrasonographic, computed tomographic, and magnetic resonance imaging appearances of the normal female reproductive tract from birth through the postmenopausal years will ultimately help clinicians avoid misinterpreting these normal physiologic changes as pathologic conditions.

© RSNA, 2012


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Article History

Received: Mar 12 2012
Revision requested: Apr 13 2012
Revision received: May 8 2012
Accepted: May 22 2012
Published online: Oct 4 2012
Published in print: Oct 2012