THURSDAY, Jan. 6 (HealthDay News) -- The cost of treating teenage girls with pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) in the hospital is 12 times higher than in an outpatient clinic and six times higher than in an emergency department, a new study has found.

PID is an inflammation of the female reproductive organs caused by untreated bacterial infections, especially sexually transmitted diseases such as chlamydia and gonorrhea. PID can lead to fertility problems.

In this study, researchers at the Johns Hopkins Children's Center analyzed data from 172 patient visits made by 152 girls, ages 12 to 21, with PID. Because of severe or advanced PID, 37 of the visits resulted in hospitalizations.

Hospitalization costs averaged $8,480 per patient per visit, compared with $1,382 for emergency department treatment and $701 for outpatient treatment, the investigators found.

Hospital charges were even higher ($13,360) for the small number of patients who required treatment on a psychiatric unit. This finding indicates the increased vulnerability of sexually active teens with mental disorders, according to the researchers.

The findings highlight the need for earlier diagnosis and treatment of PID to contain costs and to prevent complications such as chronic pelvic pain and infertility, the study authors noted.

"The dollar cost of PID hospitalizations and ER care is important, but at the same time we should take steps to individualize PID care and tailor it to each girl's specific age and circumstances to help her understand how to prevent this from happening again," lead investigator Dr. Maria Trent, a pediatrician who specializes in teen sexual and reproductive health, said in a Hopkins news release.

The study was published online in the December issue of the journal Sexually Transmitted Diseases.

More information

WomensHealth.gov has more about pelvic inflammatory disease.