What is a transvaginal ultrasound?
Ultrasound is the term used for high-frequency sound waves. Ultrasound examinations use these sound waves to produce a picture or image onto a screen showing the inside of your body. An ultrasound is carried out by a trained health professional (sonographer, radiologist, or oncologist).
Transvaginal ultrasound is an examination of the female pelvis. It helps to see if there is any abnormality in the uterus (womb), cervix (the neck of the womb), endometrium (lining of the womb), fallopian tubes, ovaries, bladder, or the pelvic cavity. It looks at the pelvic organs inside the vagina using a unique smooth, thin, handheld device called a transducer. This differs from an abdominal ultrasound, which uses a warm water-based clear gel applied to the skin of the abdomen, and the transducer is moved gently across the pelvic area.
All ultrasound transducers transmit high-frequency sound waves reflected from different soft tissue, structures, or parts in the body in different ways. These sound waves are converted to electrical impulses that produce a moving image on a screen.
Ultrasound has many advantages. It is painless and does not involve radiation, which is very safe. The high-frequency sound waves ensure images show very great detail, capable of looking at the very tiniest parts of the body. A health professional will be there with you, and you have the opportunity to communicate any concerns you have.
Why would my doctor refer me to have this procedure?
Your doctor requests the test to know if you have pelvic pain or abnormal bleeding symptoms or to check for fibroids/tumors of the uterus, polyps (areas of thickening of the uterus lining), ovarian cysts, or ovarian cysts tumors, infertility, or assessment of early pregnancy.
How do I prepare for a transvaginal ultrasound?
No preparation is required. You will be asked to go to the toilet and empty your bladder before the test is carried out. If you have a period, the examination can still be carried out, and it is often an advantage when assessing some gynecological problems. If you are wearing a tampon, it will need to be removed. Before having the test, you might be asked to sign a consent form. At all times, a patient’s dignity and privacy is protected during the examination.
What happens during a transvaginal ultrasound?
The transducer is slightly larger than a tampon and specially shaped to fit comfortably into the vagina. A protective cover is placed over the transducer, and lubricating gel is applied to it for ease of insertion. It is gently moved around the inside of the pelvis, and images are taken. You might have your lower abdomen pushed with the examiner's hand to get some of the pelvic organs closer to the transducer for better pictures.
The examination is carried out in “real-time,” which means that the images you see on the screen show the inside of your pelvic (lower abdomen) area.
At the end of the test, the probe is thoroughly sterilized and cleaned. The examination takes between 15–30 minutes.
Are there any after-effects of a transvaginal ultrasound?
There are no after-effects of a transvaginal ultrasound. You will be able to resume normal activities. You may notice some slight vaginal discharge from the lubrication gel after the test, just for a few hours.
What are the risks of a transvaginal ultrasound?
There are no known risks of having a transvaginal ultrasound. It uses sound waves to obtain images, and there is not much radiation involved.