A pelvic ultrasound is an ultrasonic examination of pelvic organs and structures on the subject of pathologies. This ultrasound is based on the echolocation concept – the reception of ultrasonic waves sent and later reflected by different tissues which have distinct acoustic qualities.
It is usually performed to detect one or another anomaly of abdominal cavity organs. If it is an obstetrical ultrasound – to monitor the development of a fetus.
There are two types of the test: abdominal (transabdominal pelvic ultrasound) and vaginal (transvaginal pelvic ultrasound). This procedure is necessary to evaluate the uterus, fallopian tubes, vagina, ovaries, and bladder.
- Uterus: the examination identifies the state, shape, general size of the uterus and allows an evaluation of the uterine muscular walls. Besides, it provides a good way to view such uterine structures as the uterine cavity and endometrium. A non-pregnant woman has a slit-like uterine cavity. The endometrium is a functional internal layer and changes during the menstrual cycle;
- Ovaries: a physician investigates their position relative to the uterus, their size, the size of the follicles and yellow body. The results also show which menstrual cycle phase it is. If the procedure identifies any mass in the ovaries, the physician thoroughly investigates and describes it as well (shape, structure, size);
- In addition, an ultrasound is used to view the presence of excess fluid (after the ovule emerges from the ovary there should be a small amount) and tumor masses inside of the pelvic;
- Besides, the estimation of the uterine and ovarian structure, the exam also allows the physician to evaluate the state of the bladder (if its degree of filling is sufficient).
The benefits of pelvic ultrasound
An ultrasound is a fast-performed, cost-saving and easy procedure. It provides clear results and needs minimal effort during preparation for this test. Such ultrasound is completely safe and painless even for expectant mothers.
When do you need a pelvic ultrasound?
Pelvic ultrasound imaging can identify gynecological diseases, pregnancy, supervise a patient’s treatment.
- Pelvic ultrasound makes it possible to diagnose early pregnancy;
- It should be performed when a woman experiences menstrual irregularity, the absence of menstruation, various vaginal discharge, pain in the lower abdomen, discharge during menopause;
- This ultrasound permits to detect different diseases: from inflammatory gynecological diseases to benign or malignant tumors in the uterus or ovaries (including endometriosis, ovarian cysts, endometritis, etc.);
- It allows early diagnostics of uterine fibroids;
- Pelvic ultrasound is widely used for monitoring the ovarian follicular structure during the infertility treatment and pregnancy planning;
- Pelvic ultrasound should be performed after contraceptive pills or hormonal agents are prescribed or if intrauterine contraceptive has been implanted for the control and prevention of complications;
- Obstetrical ultrasound provides a way to monitor fetal development and to detect anomalies in time;
- In urology, pelvic ultrasound is used to diagnose the reasons of urination disorders, involuntary urination, and urethral (urinary tract) pathology.
There are no contraindications to pelvic ultrasound imaging.
Pelvic ultrasound preparation
Wear loose-fitting and comfortable clothes when you are going through an ultrasonic examination. You may need to wear a gown during the procedure. Be ready to remove all your clothes and jewelry in the examination room.
If it is not a transvaginal ultrasound the general requirement is to drink two-four glasses of water an hour before the procedure. For a transvaginal pelvic ultrasound, you will have to empty your bladder.
An obligatory condition of a successful ultrasound is empty intestinal tract and the absence of gas in it. That is why you have to prepare for the examination in advance. 2-3 days before the procedure follow a diet that excludes products causing flatulence of constipation. It is better to rule out from your daily ration rye bread, fruit, raw vegetables, pastry, and milk. If you suffer from constipation you will have to take a laxative.
Do not eat before the procedure.
The better you prepare for a pelvic ultrasound, the clearer your results will be.
How is the test performed?
You will be lying face-up on an examination table. A physician will use the gel on the part of your body to take a better picture. If it is a transvaginal ultrasound the transducer will be covered and lubricated with a small amount of gel and after that inserted into the vagina. The physician will move transducer over the studied area with a little pressure. This usually does not cause any discomfort. The test is completely painless if there is no inflammation process in the pelvic cavity. The examination takes 10-20 minutes, depending on its purpose. When pelvic ultrasound is complete, you will need to clean the excess of gel from your body with a tissue. Do not worry if some clear gel will stay on your skin – it will dry and will not stain your clothing.
There are usually no complications after a pelvic ultrasound. But remember, that a transvaginal ultrasound during pregnancy, especially in early stages, is performed only after the estimation of risk to the fetus.
The results of a pelvic ultrasound are interpreted by a radiologist who sends a report to your physician who requested the imaging.
What does a pelvic ultrasound show?
- Uterine scars and anomalies (can lead to infertility, miscarriage, stillbirth, malposition of the fetus, labor abnormality);
- Endometriosis: a pathological process characterized by spreading of endometrium beyond the uterine cavity. It can lead to infertility as well;
- Ovarian cysts;
- Uterine fibroids (or myoma): a benign tumor in the uterus. A pelvic ultrasound provides a way to examine the quantity, size, and position of myomas. Besides, pelvic ultrasound imaging allows monitoring their development. The diagnostics of fibroids is very important for trying to conceive because it can affect the course of pregnancy;
- Pregnancy: a pelvic ultrasound detects pregnancy when it is at least 3-4 weeks passed. It is possible to identify an early pregnancy with a transvaginal pelvic ultrasound only if the transducer has high resolution. Ectopic pregnancy is diagnosed at an early stage which makes it possible to save the mother’s health;
- Intrauterine contraception: it permits to control the process of implantation and removal of an intrauterine contraceptive. An ultrasonic imaging is used to detect its irregular position in the uterus, ingrowth into the uterine wall or prolapse in time;
- Endometrial polyps;
Every healthy woman should go through a proactive pelvic ultrasound once every 1-2 years (after the age of 40 – once a year) to eliminate hidden pathologies. It is usually performed during the first phase of menstrual cycle (on the 5th-7th day since the cycle’s beginning).