A pelvic ultrasound is a test that doctors perform to see the organs inside your pelvis.
- A pelvic ultrasound creates images of the pelvis using sound waves.
- Images are captured on a computer by an ultrasound machine that transmits sound waves into the pelvic region.
- The internal pelvic structures, including the bladder and, in females, the uterus, ovaries, cervix, and fallopian tubes, are depicted in black-and-white photographs.
What is pelvic ultrasound?
A pelvic ultrasound can be used by your doctor to look at what's going on inside your pelvis. Your doctor may prescribe this test to find the source of any unexplained pain, swelling, or infections in your pelvis.
The pelvis is the area between your hip bones where your sacrum, tailbone, bladder, sex organs, and rectum (the last section of your large intestine that connects to your anus) are located. Additionally, your pelvis is where your urethra and bladder are situated.
An ultrasound of your pelvis is the most reliable test for checking any growth there. It helps your doctor determine whether the growth is a solid tumor, a cyst filled with fluid, or some other mass.
How is the procedure performed?
Most ultrasound exams are performed while you are lying face-up on a portable exam table. You may turn to either side to improve their visual quality.
- The radiologist or sonographer, a medical specialist trained to supervise and interpret radiological exams, will put you on the examination table.
- They will dispense a water-based gel to the area of the body being scanned. The gel will help the transducer connect securely to the body. Additionally, it removes any air bubbles that can get in the way of sound waves entering your body between the transducer and the skin.
- The transducer is placed on the body and moved back and forth over the target area until the desired images are captured.
In most cases, there is no discomfort from the pressure while placing the transducer on the area being assessed. If the transducer is placed on a sensitive area, you can feel pressure or even some discomfort.
Following the imaging procedure, the technician will remove the clear ultrasonic gel from your skin. Any leftover gel will dry out soon; most of the time, the gel doesn't cause any staining on your clothes.
It is performed by doctors in the same manner as a gynecologic exam.
After you've emptied your bladder, the doctor will place the transducer into your vagina. The transducer's tip is smaller than the typical speculum used for Pap tests. The transducer is covered with a protective covering, lubricated with a tiny amount of gel, and inserted two to three inches into the vagina.
The doctor takes photos of the uterus and ovaries from various angles to get accurate views of them. During a transvaginal ultrasound, you lie on your back, possibly with your feet in stirrups, such as a gynecologic exam.
4 types of pelvic ultrasound
There are various pelvic ultrasonography procedures, each of which focuses on a particular organ or accomplishes a specific task.
4 types of pelvic ultrasound procedures
- Abdominal ultrasound, which looks at the organs from outside the abdomen
- Pregnancy ultrasound, which tracks fetal growth inside the uterus
- Rectal ultrasonography, which looks inside the rectum. The prostate is examined through a specialized examination known as transrectal ultrasound
- Transvaginal ultrasonography, which looks at the reproductive organs from inside the vagina
How does pelvic ultrasound work?
Ultrasound is a tool that doctors use to spot abnormal structures such as tumors and changes in the appearance of organs, tissues, and blood vessels.
In an ultrasonic examination, a transducer transmits sound waves and captures echoes or returning waves.
- Small pulses of inaudible, high-frequency sound waves are sent into the body when the transducer is pushed against the skin.
- As sound waves reflect off tissues, liquids, and internal organs, the sensitive receiver in the transducer records even the slightest changes in the sound's pitch and direction.
- These distinctive waves are quickly measured by a computer, and real-time images of them are shown on the monitor.
Usually, the technician takes a still photo of one or more frames from the moving image. They can also record quick video loops of the visuals.
Transvaginal and transrectal ultrasound methods follow the same general principles. For these tests, the physician must insert a unique transducer into the person’s body.
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Why is pelvic ultrasound performed?
Pelvic ultrasound can be used to measure and inspect your pelvic organs.
Ultrasound assessment of the pelvis may include but is not limited to:
- Dimensions, configuration, and location of the uterus and ovaries.
- Bladder shape changes.
- Blood flow in pelvic organs.
- Cervix length and thickness.
- Thickness, echogenicity (the blackness or lightness of the picture concerning the density of the tissue), the presence of fluids or masses in the endometrium, myometrium (uterine muscle tissue), fallopian tubes, or in or near the bladder.
A pelvic ultrasound can only give information on the size, position, and shape of pelvic masses; it cannot be used to make a conclusive diagnosis of cancer or another specific condition.
A pelvic ultrasound can help diagnose the following conditions:
- Endometrial problems and other anomalies of the uterus' anatomy
- Lumps, cysts, benign growths, and various tumors in the pelvis, including fibroid tumors
- The location and existence of an intrauterine device
- Pelvic inflammatory disease and other forms of infection or inflammation
- Bleeding after menopause
- Aspiration of follicle fluid and eggs from ovaries for in vitro fertilization
- Ovarian follicle size monitoring to assess infertility
- Ectopic pregnancy
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