An ultrasound is a non-invasive (skin is not cut) procedure to assess the organs and structures within the female pelvis.
It allows quick visualisation of the female pelvic organs and helps to see if there is any abnormalities in the female pelvic organs including the uterus (womb), the endometrium (the lining of the uterus) and the ovaries.
The fallopian tubes are only visible if they are dilated and filled with fluid, so called hydrosalpinges. The ultrasound of those organs has to be included into the basic fertility work-up in an unfertile couple. Additional, ultrasound is useful in the investigation of a number of problems including heavy or painful periods, pelvic pain, pain during sexual intercourse, irregular periods and postmenopausal bleeding.
An ultrasound may not provide all the answers to the problem, but it may very helpful in diagnosis and management.
Ultrasound can be performed in 2 ways:
Transabdominal ultrasound: Is the ultrasound done for the lower abdomen. It gives an overview of the pelvis rather than detailed imaging.
This is generally helpful to examine large pelvic masses extending into the abdomen which cannot be assessed or viewed properly with a transvaginal ultrasound.
In this, a small amount of ultrasound gel is applied on the lower abdomen, and scanning is done using ultrasound probes through this gel. The gel is used to improve contact between the probe and skin. The patient will need to have a full bladder for better visualisation of the area.
Transvaginal ultrasound: Is an internal ultrasound. In this, scanning is done with the ultrasound probe inside the vagina. Since the probe is closer to the internal structure, the images are better and much clearer.
The transducer is slightly larger than a tampon and specially shaped to fit comfortably into the vagina. A protective cover is placed over the transducer and warm lubricating gel is applied to it for ease of insertion. It is gently moved around and pictures or images of the pelvis are obtained.
Studies have shown ultrasound is not hazardous and there are no harmful side effects. Moreover, ultrasound does not use radiation, like X-ray tests do. Patient may experience slight discomfort with the insertion of the transducer into the vagina however, no analgesia is required for transvaginal ultrasound.
Since the transducer is directly inserted into the vagina, this technique allows for close and clear viewing of the pelvic organs. The ultrasound images obtained are much clearer and provide a basis for further investigation or treatment.
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