A pelvic ultrasound is a noninvasive diagnostic exam that produces images that are used to assess organs and structures within the female pelvis. A pelvic ultrasound allows quick visualization of the female pelvic organs and structures including the uterus, cervix, vagina, fallopian tubes and ovaries.
Ultrasound uses a transducer that sends out ultrasound waves at a frequency too high to be heard. The ultrasound transducer is placed on the skin, and the ultrasound waves move through the body to the organs and structures within. The sound waves bounce off the organs like an echo and return to the transducer. The transducer processes the reflected waves, which are then converted by a computer into an image of the organs or tissues being examined.
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All You Need to Know About Pelvic Ultrasound
What does a pelvic ultrasound show?
The test is performed on men and women of all ages. Since the pelvis contains your sex organs, the ultrasound looks at different things for men and women. During the test, a trained medical technician will squirt a small amount of warm gel on your skin over your pelvic area. The technician will move a handheld device (called a wand) through the gel and across your pelvis. The technician will monitor the images on a nearby screen and record the images for the doctor.
The probe is connected to an ultrasound machine. As the device moves across your pelvis, it produces high-frequency sound waves. Those sound waves create real-time photos and video of the inside of your pelvis. The images look similar to an x-ray. However, ultrasound technology picks up things that aren’t seen by an x-ray.
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Does a pelvic ultrasound hurt?
Although it isn’t the most fun activity in the world, getting a vaginal ultrasound is generally not painful. One can say that it doesn’t hurt, but it’s definitely uncomfortable.
How long does it take to get a pelvic ultrasound?
The examination takes between 15–30 minutes. Sometimes you will be asked to wait and have the images checked by the radiologist or obstetrician sonologist (specialist doctors). The sonographer, the health professional who carries out the ultrasound examination, might ask the doctor to come into the room and check what has been seen. Usually the doctor will let you know what they have seen and if there are any concerns. In some facilities, the doctor or specialist will carry out the examination and will usually inform you of the findings.
Can a pelvic ultrasound detect early pregnancy?
It is important to note that, in early pregnancy, a pelvic ultrasound is much more accurate than an abdominal ultrasound, so we will talk about findings on a pelvic ultrasound alone. The gestational sac is usually the first sign of pregnancy on ultrasound and may be seen as early as 3 weeks. At this time the average diameter of the sac is 2 to 3 millimeters. At around 5.5 weeks the yolk sac often becomes visible inside the gestational sac. In viable pregnancies, a transvaginal ultrasound should be able to detect the gestational sac by 5 weeks gestational age.
When correlated with hcg levels, a gestational sac should be seen on ultrasound when the hcg level when it has reached about 1500 to 2000. The main reason that an ultrasound is done in early pregnancy is to detect an intrauterine pregnancy and rule out an ectopic pregnancy. If an ectopic pregnancy is detected, ultrasound is useful when figuring out how to manage it. The goal of early ultrasound is not necessarily to determine viability and fetal age of an intrauterine pregnancy—however, both viability and fetal age are determined if intrauterine pregnancy is detected.
Can a pelvic ultrasound detect cervical cancer?
Cervical cancer can arise from abnormal cells located in the cervix, the lower part of the uterus that connects the uterus with the vagina. Most cervical cancers are a result of a previous infection with the human papilloma virus, or hpv. Hpv is an infectious virus that is spread through intercourse. HPV can cause pre-cancerous changes in the cells of the cervix, and may result in the development of cervical cancer. While cervical cancer is generally a slow-developing disease, if not detected early, it may spread to other parts of the body such as the lining of the abdomen, liver, bladder or lungs. If you are having symptoms (bleeding/discharge) from a cervical cancer, then it can probably be seen during a pelvic exam. Any time your provider can see a cervical tumour on pelvic exam, it will be biopsied. Finally, a conisation or cone biopsy may be performed.