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How do we define the term idiopathic?

Tirlapur, Seema A.a; Priest, Leeb; Daniels, Jane P.b; Khan, Khalid S.a,c

Current Opinion in Obstetrics and Gynecology: December 2013 - Volume 25 - Issue 6 - p 468–473
doi: 10.1097/GCO.0000000000000025
WOMEN'S HEALTH: Edited by Joseph Aquilina

Purpose of review The term idiopathic is often used to describe a disease with no identifiable cause. It may be a diagnosis of exclusion; however, what specific minimum investigations need to be performed to define idiopathic is not always clear. This commentary describes the problems inherent in reaching a definition for the term idiopathic.

Recent findings There is limited literature describing methodology to define a condition with no clear diagnostic criteria. This article offers chronic pelvic pain (CPP) syndrome as an example, in which structured qualitative interviews, literature searches and group consensus discussions were undertaken to produce a working definition for idiopathic CPP.

Summary It is important to correctly develop these standardized definitions for use as outcome measures in research and as clinical indicators in healthcare.

aWomen's Health Research Unit, Queen Mary, University of London, London

bBirmingham Clinical Trials Unit, School of Cancer Sciences, Robert Aitken Institute, University of Birmingham

cBarts Health NHS Trust, The Royal London Hospital, Whitechapel Road, London, UK

Correspondence to Dr Seema A. Tirlapur, Women's Health Research Unit, Barts and the London School of Medicine, Queen Mary, University of London, 58 Turner Street, London, E1 2AB, UK. Tel: +44-207-882-5883; fax: +44-207-882-2552;e-mail:

© 2013 Wolters Kluwer Health | Lippincott Williams & Wilkins