A pelvic ultrasound is a scan that looks at the organs and structures in your pelvic
area. It lets your healthcare provider look at your:
- Fallopian tubes
Your provider can also use Doppler ultrasound to look at how blood is flowing in certain
Ultrasound uses a device called a transducer to send out sound waves that are too
high to be heard. The transducer sends the sound waves through your skin and other
body tissues to the organs and structures within. The sound waves bounce off the organs
like an echo and return to the transducer. The transducer picks up the reflected waves.
These are changed into a picture of the organs.
The ultrasound technologist puts a clear gel on your skin and moves the transducer
on the gel. The gel lets the technologist move the transducer smoothly over your skin.
It also helps conduct the sound waves.
Pelvic ultrasound may be done in 2 ways:
- Transabdominal. A transducer is put on your belly using the gel.
Transvaginal. A long, thin transducer is covered with a plastic or latex sheath and gel. The transducer
is then put into the vagina.
The type of ultrasound procedure you have depends on why you need it. You may need
only one type of pelvic ultrasound. Or you may need both to help your healthcare provider
make a diagnosis or give you treatment.
You may need a pelvic ultrasound so your healthcare provider can measure or look at
your pelvic organs. Your provider may use the ultrasound to look at:
- Size and shape of your uterus and ovaries and where they are
- Thickness and density of tissues and
organs in your pelvis
- Fluids or masses in the endometrium, muscles of the uterus (myometrium), fallopian
tubes, or bladder
- Length and thickness of your cervix
- Changes in the shape of your bladder
- Blood flow through your pelvic organs
Pelvic ultrasound can give your
healthcare provider lots of information about the size, place, and structure of pelvic
masses. But ultrasound can’t give a definite diagnosis of cancer or specific
Your healthcare provider may use pelvic ultrasound to help:
- Find problems in the structure of the uterus, including endometrial conditions
- Find fibroid tumors (benign growths),
masses, cysts, and other types of tumors in the pelvis
- Find an IUD (intrauterine contraceptive device)
- Diagnose pelvic inflammatory disease or other types of inflammation or infection
- Find the cause of bleeding after menopause
- Watch your ovaries when you are treated for infertility
- Collect fluid and eggs from egg sacs
(follicles) in the ovaries for in vitro fertilization
- Diagnose pregnancy that happens
outside of the uterus, often in the fallopian tube (ectopic pregnancy)
- Watch how your fetus is growing during pregnancy
- Look at certain fetal conditions
Your healthcare provider may also use ultrasound to help with other procedures such
as endometrial biopsy. Transvaginal ultrasound may be used with a procedure called
sonohysterography. For this, your uterus is filled with fluid so that your provider
can get a better image.
Your provider may have other
reasons to advise a pelvic ultrasound.
Ultrasound doesn’t use radiation.
You usually won’t feel any discomfort when the transducer is moved across your skin
during a transabdominal ultrasound. You may have a little discomfort when then
transvaginal transducer is put into your vagina.
The transvaginal ultrasound transducer is covered in a plastic or latex sheath. This
may cause a reaction if you have a latex allergy.
During a transabdominal ultrasound, you may have discomfort from a full bladder or
from lying on the exam table.
If you need to have a transabdominal ultrasound right away, your provider may put
a thin tube (urinary catheter) into your bladder to fill it.
You may have other risks depending on your health condition. Be sure to talk with
your healthcare provider about any concerns you have before the procedure.
Some things can affect your test results. These include:
- Severe obesity
- Barium within your bowel from a recent barium test
- Intestinal gas
- Your bladder isn’t full enough for the test (transabdominal ultrasound). A full bladder
helps move the uterus up and moves the bowel away to get a better image.
- Your healthcare provider will explain the scan to you. Ask any questions you have
about the scan.
- Tell your provider if you are sensitive to or are allergic to latex.
- You often can eat and drink as normal
before the scan. You won’t get medicine to help you relax or go to sleep, unless the
ultrasound is part of another procedure that needs anesthesia.
- Wear clothing that you don’t mind
getting gel on. The gel put on your skin during the scan doesn’t stain clothing, but
some of it may stay on your skin after the scan.
- For a transabdominal ultrasound, you
will be asked to drink several glasses of water or other liquid 1 to 2 hours before
the scan. Don’t empty your bladder until the scan is over.
- For a transvaginal ultrasound, you should empty your bladder right before the scan.
- Follow any other directions your provider gives you on how to get ready.
You may have a pelvic ultrasound done in your healthcare provider’s office. Or you
may have it as an outpatient or as part of your stay in a hospital. The scan process
may vary depending on your condition and your healthcare provider’s practices.
- You will be asked to remove any clothing, jewelry, or other objects that may get in
the way of the scan.
- You will be given a gown to wear if you need to remove clothing.
- You will lie on your back on an exam table.
- The technologist will put gel on your belly (abdomen).
- The technologist will press the transducer against your skin and move it over the
area being studied.
- If the technologist is looking at
blood flow, you may hear a “whoosh, whoosh” sound when the Doppler mode is
- You will see images of your pelvic
area on the computer screen. Images will be recorded for your healthcare
- When the technologist finishes the
scan, they will wipe off the gel.
- You may empty your bladder when the scan is done.
- You will be asked to remove any clothing, jewelry, or other objects that may interfere
with the scan.
- You will be given a gown to wear if you need to remove clothing.
- You will lie on an exam table. Your feet and legs will be supported as for a pelvic
- The technologist will cover the
transvaginal transducer with a plastic or latex sheath and put gel on it. They
will put the tip of the transducer into your vagina. This may be slightly
- The technologist will gently turn and angle the transducer to bring the areas for
study into focus. You may feel mild pressure as the transducer is moved.
- If the technologist is looking at your blood flow, you may hear a “whoosh, whoosh”
sound when the Doppler probe is used.
- You will see images of your pelvic area on the computer screen. Images will be recorded
for your health care records.
- When technologist finishes the
scan, they will remove the transducer.
You don’t have to do anything
special after a pelvic ultrasound. You may go back to your normal diet and activity
unless your healthcare provider tells you not to.
Your healthcare provider may give you additional instructions, depending on your situation.
Before you agree to the test or the procedure make sure you know:
- The name of the test or procedure
- The reason you are having the test or procedure
- What results to expect and what they mean
- The risks and benefits of the test or procedure
- What the possible side effects or complications are
- When and where you are to have the test or procedure
- Who will do the test or procedure and what that person’s qualifications are
- What would happen if you did not have the test or procedure
- Any alternative tests or procedures to think about
- When and how will you get the results
- Who to call after the test or procedure if you have questions or problems
- How much will you have to pay for the test or procedure