A pelvic ultrasound is used to assess the uterus, ovaries and other pelvic structures. It is used for conditions such as pelvic pain; abnormal bleeding; menstrual problems; assessment of the endometrium; IUCD positioning; fertility; bloating; pelvic masses; and issues in pregnancy. Both transabdominal and transvaginal (internal) scans may be performed.
Transvaginal ultrasound involves inserting a thin transducer (slightly thicker than a tampon) into the vagina to get more detailed images as the transducer is closer to the pelvic organs. This improves the accuracy of diagnosis.
There are times when a transvaginal scan will not be required, and recognise it is not a suitable or acceptable procedure for all women. Transvaginal scans are generally not performed on young girls, women that have not been sexually active and those declining the procedure. If you have concerns, please discuss them with the sonographer. A transvaginal scan is optional for all patients; it is your decision whether to proceed.
Your examination will be performed by a sonographer who will introduce themselves and confirm your identity and the procedure you are having. First, a gel is applied to the skin over the area to be examined (lower abdomen/pelvis) to allow the ultrasound probe to move easily over the skin.
After external images have been done, the transvaginal scan will be offered, and you will be asked to empty your bladder and change into a gown. The transvaginal transducer is disinfected before use, and a protective cover is placed over the transducer each time it is used, so there is no risk of infection. The probe is lubricated with gel prior to insertion into the vagina and moved gently to see the pelvic organs. This part of the examination generally only takes 10-15 minutes.
During both parts of the scan, the sonographer may need to mildly push on the abdomen to move bowel out of the way to gain better visualisation and test mobility of pelvic structures. If the examination is causing excessive discomfort or you want to end the examination, advise the sonographer immediately.
Your images will be looked at by a radiologist who will provide a written report for your doctor. Sometimes, the radiologist will speak to you in person during the examination.
Before your Scan
A pelvic ultrasound can be performed at any stage of a woman’s menstrual cycle. To achieve the best scan results, for women still menstruating we suggest the scan be done at the end of a period when the lining of the uterus is thinnest (day 4-9 of your menstrual cycle). If you are in pain or your referring doctor requires the examination to be done urgently, then your appointment can be made sooner or at any stage of your cycle.
If possible, wear clothing that allows easy access to the area that is being imaged, such as two-piece clothing (separate upper/lower garments).
Transabdominal: A full bladder is required. Drink one litre of water finishing one hour before your appointment and do not empty your bladder. Distension (expansion) of your bladder gives clearer images of your pelvic organs and compresses your bowel out of the way. If you are feeling overly full and it is causing you pain or distress, please tell reception staff on arrival who will talk to you about your options.
Transvaginal: this ultrasound is done on an empty bladder which you may find more comfortable.
Preparation details will be confirmed when you make your appointment.
Approximately 30 minutes.
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