Growths such as ovarian cysts and uterine fibroids can be identified through a pelvic ultrasound.
A pelvic ultrasound is a noninvasive diagnostic test that uses high-frequency sound waves to produce images of internal organs in the pelvic area, including the:
- Fallopian tubes
These high-frequency sound waves are emitted by a small tool called a transducer. When placed on an area with special conductive gel, the transducer sends waves that are bounced off surrounding organs and sent to a computer that creates moving images of the area under examination.
A pelvic ultrasound may be given to women with symptoms such as pelvic pain, abnormal vaginal bleeding and difficulty conceiving. While it cannot definitively diagnose a particular disease, it can help identify:
- Ectopic pregnancy
- Ovarian cysts
- Uterine fibroids
- Pelvic inflammatory disease
- Ovarian or uterine cancer
- Structural abnormalities
Pelvic ultrasounds are also used to monitor fetal development and maternal health during pregnancy, or to keep tabs on unusual growths such as cysts and fibroids.
There are two main types of pelvic ultrasounds:
- Transabdominal ultrasound – The transducer is covered in conductive gel and placed on the patient’s abdomen.
- Transvaginal ultrasound – A thin, wand-like transducer is covered in conductive gel and gently inserted into the patient’s vagina.
During a transabdominal ultrasound, the patient lays on an exam table while an ultrasound technician slowly glides the transducer around her lower abdomen. A transvaginal ultrasound entails gently inserting a transducer wand (covered in a thin sheath and gel) about two or three inches into the vagina. This wand is moved slightly by the technician to capture images of the pelvic organs from multiple angles.
What to Expect
Pelvic ultrasounds do not involve radiation and are safe for pregnant women. This imaging test is fast and considered painless, although transvaginal ultrasounds may cause mild discomfort when the transducer wand is inserted and removed. Typically, pelvic ultrasounds are completed in less than 30 minutes, and patients are able to immediately return to normal activities.
Tampa General Hospital is home to specialists who provide a full range of diagnostic services, including pelvic ultrasounds, to women in all stages of life.