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Embedding a novel screening programme for sexually transmitted infections (chlamydia and gonorrhoea) within an ambulatory emergency surgical assessment unit: an observational cohort study
  1. Divolka Ganesh1,
  2. Ciara Mahon2,
  3. Sian Jones1,
  4. Helen Please1,
  5. Michael Hughes1,
  6. Adam Peckham-Cooper1
  1. 1St James's University Hospital, Leeds, UK
  2. 2University College Hospital, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Divolka Ganesh, St James's University Hospital, Leeds, UK; divolka.ganesh1{at}


Background A number of females with pelvic inflammatory disease will present to general surgical services with non-specific abdominal pain. Screening for sexually transmitted infections (STI) as an underlying cause is not routinely offered. We therefore established an STI screening programme for young females presenting to a same day emergency ambulatory surgical clinic as part of the diagnostic pathway. Data outlining the incidence and prevalence of STIs as the underlying cause of lower abdominal pain were collected.

Methods We conducted an observational cohort study. Self-collected vulvovaginal swabs for chlamydia and gonorrhoea were offered as part of a standardised diagnostic pathway for all females meeting inclusion criteria presenting with abdominal pain. Positive results were referred to our local sexual health team for treatment and contact tracing.

Results The cohort comprised 297 eligible patients; 259 participated, 20 patients declined testing and 18 samples were rejected as inadequate in the laboratory. 5.4% of swab results were positive (2 gonorrhoea and 12 chlamydia). All patients with positive swabs had presented with lower abdominal pain and of these only 21% had a documented sexual history.

Conclusion Undiagnosed STIs are prevalent, with significant fertility and public health risks. Young females seeking medical assessment for abdominal pain provide an opportunistic screening cohort with a likely subset of patients presenting with abdominal pain as a direct result of an STI. Our results demonstrate a high incidence of positive tests, suggesting further training of surgeons to include a sexual history in assessment of females with abdominal pain is vital.

  • sexual health
  • chlamydia infections
  • gonorrhea
  • pelvic inflammatory disease
  • disease transmission, infectious

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  • DG and CM are joint first authors.

  • Handling editor Claudia S Estcourt

  • Contributors All authors were involved in creating the study design, including deciding on aims, inclusion/exclusion criteria and methods and data collection. DG, CM, SJ and HP actively undertook data collection and implementation of methods. DG, CM and SJ wrote up the paper. HP, MH and AP-C critiqued and edited the paper. DG, CM, HP and MH created educational information regarding the study content and assisted delivering teaching to ASC staff to achieve the aims. MH and AP-C were involved in managing the materials required including ordering and sourcing swabs and liaising with on-the-ground staff to achieve this.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.