Have you been experiencing any pelvic pain lately? What about abnormal bleeding or unusually heavy periods? If so, a pelvic ultrasound may be warranted. Although they aren’t included in most annual exams, these ultrasounds allow us to see the uterus, ovaries, and fallopian tubes. They also detect the presence of cysts and fibroids, which can be hard to identify through a pelvic examination alone. These ultrasounds can greatly benefit your reproductive health, so keep reading below to learn more about what they entail!
What is a pelvic ultrasound?
A pelvic ultrasound provides us with a noninvasive way to diagnose many gynecological conditions. The images produced during this ultrasound allow for the quick visualization and assessment of the organs and structures within the female pelvis, such as the uterus, cervix, vagina, fallopian tubes, and ovaries.
When you schedule a pelvic ultrasound with our practice, we’ll use a special gel on the ultrasound transducer and your skin to allow smoother movement. This also helps eliminate air between the skin and transducer for the best sound conduction. This instrument sends high-frequency ultrasound waves through the body to the organs and structures within the pelvis. These waves then bounce off the organs like an echo before returning to the transducer.
At this point, they are processed and converted into images of the organs and tissues being examined. We may also choose to use a Doppler ultrasound during your appointment. The Doppler can show the speed and direction of the blood flow in certain pelvic organs, and some soundwaves may be audible.
Pelvic ultrasounds are generally performed using two different methods: transabdominal and transvaginal. With a transabdominal ultrasound, the transducer is placed on the abdomen using the conductive gel. When we perform a transvaginal ultrasound, a longer and thinner transducer is covered with conductive gel and a plastic or latex sheath before inserting it into the vagina.
The type of ultrasound we use with you will depend on the reason you’re being seen. In some cases, only one method will be necessary. For others, we may need to use both methods to obtain the information we need to diagnose or treat you.
What to expect from a pelvic ultrasound appointment
Pelvic ultrasounds can be performed in an office like ours on an outpatient basis or as part of a hospital stay. Most will follow the same process regardless of the location. There are some differences in the preparation before a transabdominal or transvaginal procedure.
Before a transabdominal ultrasound, you’ll be asked to remove any clothing, jewelry, or other objects that may interfere with the scan. You’ll normally remain fully clothed, but we can provide you with a gown to wear if necessary. You’ll lie on your back on an exam table while we apply the conductive gel to your abdomen. We’ll then gently but firmly press the transducer against your skin and move it around the area of concern. If a Doppler probe is being used, you may hear a whooshing sound as we assess the blood flow.
Throughout the ultrasound process, different images will be displayed on the computer screen. Once we’ve collected all the images and information we need, we’ll wipe the excess gel off, and you’ll be able to replace your clothing and jewelry.
If you’re scheduled for a transvaginal ultrasound, we’ll provide you with a gown and have you lie on the exam table with your feet and legs supported. This is the same position we use for regular pelvic examinations. The transducer will be covered in a plastic or latex sheath then lubricated with conductive gel. The tip will be inserted into your vagina, and we will gently turn and angle the wand to bring different areas into focus. Some mildly uncomfortable pressure is normal with these movements.
As with the transabdominal ultrasound, you might hear a whooshing sound if we’re using a Doppler probe. Images will be displayed as we gather information. Once the process is complete, the transducer will be removed and you’ll be able to replace your clothing.
There are no real risk factors with either type of pelvic ultrasound, but certain factors and conditions can affect the results. These include but aren’t limited to severe obesity, intestinal gas, and barium within the intestines from a recent barium procedure. A full bladder moves the uterus up and the bowel out of the way, so we may ask you to hold yours until after the ultrasound for better results.
What are the most common reasons for a pelvic ultrasound?
We use pelvic ultrasounds to measure and evaluate the female pelvic organs. An ultrasound assessment of the pelvis will often include:
- the size, shape, and position of your uterus and ovaries
- the presence, thickness, and density of fluids or masses in the endometrium, uterine muscle tissue, fallopian tubes, and bladder
- the length and thickness of your cervix
- any changes in your bladder shape
- the blood flow through your pelvic organs
While these ultrasounds can give us a great deal of information about any pelvic masses that are present, they cannot provide patients with a definitive diagnosis of cancer or other diseases. Generally speaking, pelvic ultrasounds are used to diagnose:
- abnormalities in the anatomic structure of your uterus, including endometrial issues
- fibroid tumors, masses, cysts, and other types of tumors within the pelvis
- postmenopausal bleeding
- aspiration of follicle fluid and eggs from the ovaries for in vitro fertilization
- an ectopic pregnancy
This procedure is also helpful for monitoring ovarian follicle size during an infertility evaluation, monitoring fetal development during pregnancy, and assessing certain fetal conditions. In some cases, a pelvic ultrasound may be used to detect the presence and position of an intrauterine contraceptive device (IUD). It can assist with other procedures as well, such as an endometrial biopsy.
Trust your reproductive health to Women’s Health Specialists
If you’ve been experiencing abnormal bleeding, heavy periods, or any pain in your abdominal area, don’t ignore it. A pelvic ultrasound can give us important insight into what’s going on! To find out more, get in touch with our Germantown office and schedule an appointment. Your reproductive health may depend on it.