OBJECTIVE: We examined chronic pelvic pain definitions used in published research, because the definition has direct implications for investigating causation and evaluating treatment.
DATA SOURCES: MEDLINE was searched for published articles in an Abridged Index Medicus journal from 1966 to 2001, restricted to humans, females, and English language. “Chronic pelvic pain” was used as a keyword.
METHODS OF STUDY SELECTION: We reviewed 101 abstracts of publications of chronic pelvic pain. Forty-three articles met the criteria of human, female, English language, chronic pelvic pain, and use of an experimental, cohort, case-control, or cross-sectional study design.
TABULATION, INTEGRATION, AND RESULTS: The following were not explicitly specified in the chronic pelvic pain definitions in these articles: duration of pain in 44%, restriction by pathology in 74%, location of pain in 93%, restriction by comorbidity in 95%, and additional inclusion/exclusion criteria in 65%.
CONCLUSION: We conclude that an explicit chronic pelvic pain definition is not used for research of this population. The use of a poor operational chronic pelvic pain research definition reduces the ability to investigate causation and improve treatment of this condition.