Fitz-Hugh–Curtis syndrome

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Fitz-Hugh–Curtis syndrome
Perihepatic adhesions 2.jpg
Perihepatic adhesions
Classification and external resources
ICD-9-CM 098.86, 099.56
DiseasesDB 4843
eMedicine med/797

Fitz-Hugh–Curtis syndrome is a rare complication of pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) named after the two physicians, Thomas Fitz-Hugh, Jr and Arthur Hale Curtis who first reported this condition in 1934 and 1930 respectively.[1][2][3] It involves liver capsule inflammation[4] leading to the creation of adhesions.

Signs and symptoms[edit]

The major symptom and signs include an acute onset of right upper quadrant (RUQ) abdominal pain aggravated by breathing, coughing or laughing, which may be referred to the right shoulder. There is usually also tenderness on palpation of the right upper abdomen and tenderness to percussion of the lower ribs which protect the liver. Surprisingly there is often no or only minimal pelvic pain, vaginal discharge or cervical motion tenderness, which may lead to the diagnosis being missed. This may be due to infectious bacteria bypassing pelvic structures on the way to the liver capsule.[citation needed]


Fitz-Hugh–Curtis syndrome occurs almost exclusively in women. It is usually caused by gonorrhoea (acute gonococcal perihepatitis) or chlamydia bacteria, which cause a thinning of cervical mucus and allow bacteria from the vagina into the uterus and oviducts, causing infection and inflammation. Occasionally, this inflammation can cause scar tissue to form on Glisson's capsule, a thin layer of connective tissue surrounding the liver.[citation needed]

Previously, Neisseria gonorrhoeae was thought to be the major organism responsible. Recent studies, however, have shown that cases of FHC due to infection with Chlamydia trachomatis outnumber those due to infection with Neisseria gonorrhoeae by a ratio of 5:1. Bacteroides spp., and facultative organisms such as Gardnerella, E. coli, and streptococcus may also play a role in some cases but are less commonly involved.[5]


Abdominal ultrasound will typically be normal, though it might show incidental fatty liver or incidental gallstones. Liver function tests will typically be normal or unchanged from baseline as the infection does not involve the liver parenchyma. If a D-dimer is ordered, which it often is when there is pleuritic torso pain, it will usually be markedly elevated but other testing for pulmonary embolism will be normal. CT of the abdomen with IV contrast may show subtle enhancement of the liver capsule, but this may be missed by radiologists if they are not advised to look for it. Testing for gonorrhea and chlamydia should be performed to make the diagnosis. Cervical samples are more sensitive than testing the urine for these organisms. Antibody testing is rarely required but may be considered if other tests are non-diagnostic and suspicion is high.[citation needed]

Laparoscopy is also rarely required, but may be performed when the diagnosis is uncertain and may reveal "violin string" adhesions of parietal peritoneum to liver.[citation needed]


Treatment involves a course of antibiotics to cover the appropriate organisms, typically ceftriaxone plus azithromycin. Laparoscopy for lysis of adhesions may be performed for refractory pain.[citation needed]


  1. ^ synd/3324 at Who Named It?
  2. ^ Fitz-Hugh, Thomas (1934). "Acute gonococcic peritonitis of the right upper quadrant in women". JAMA 102 (25): 2094–5. doi:10.1001/jama.1934.02750250020010. 
  3. ^ Curtis, Arthur H. (1930). "A cause of adhesions in the right upper quadrant". JAMA 94 (16): 1221–2. doi:10.1001/jama.1930.02710420033012. 
  4. ^ Peter, N. G.; Clark, L. R.; Jaeger, J. R. (2004). "Fitz-Hugh-Curtis syndrome: a diagnosis to consider in women with right upper quadrant pain". Cleveland Clinic journal of medicine 71 (3): 233–239. doi:10.3949/ccjm.71.3.233. PMID 15055246. 
  5. ^ Pelvic Inflammatory Disease at eMedicine

Further reading[edit]

  • Pregerson, Brady (2010). Quick Essentials: Emergency Medicine (4th ed.). ISBN 978-0-9761552-3-2. 
  • Pregerson, D. Brady (2012). Tarascon Emergency Department Quick Reference Guide. Jones & Bartlett. ISBN 978-0-7637-8789-9. 

External links[edit]