An ultrasound of the female pelvis may be performed by examining the abdomen, called trans-abdominal, or by using a special probe designed to be inserted vaginally, called transvaginal. The type of examination you will require will depends on what your referring doctor has requested and the nature of the clinical condition being investigated.
Who will Perform the Scan?
Your examination or scan will be performed by either a sonographer (a specially trained technologist) or a Radiologist (a highly trained specialist doctor) . Because the examiner is required to interpret many different moving images on the screen, a high degree of concentration is required to obtain accurate information. Therefore, in most circumstances except obstetric scans, family and friends of the patient are not generally permitted to watch the procedure. If you have accompanying children you will have to bring along someone to watch them during your examination.
Please eat a fat-free meal 8 hours before your examination and then nothing more until your examination has finished. You may drink clear fluids (ie black tea, black coffee, water and cordial) during the 8 hours prior to examination. Please continue to take all your current medication but do not smoke or chew gum during the fasting period. You will be required to drink 1 litre of water gradually between one and one and a half hours before your appointment. It is very important that you do not empty your bladder before the scan.
For most ultrasound examinations you will be required to change into a gown and lie on an examination couch. You will remain covered during your examination except for the area being imaged. In order to obtain optimal images a layer of gel will be applied to the area being imaged in order for contact to be made between your skin and the ultrasound probe. The probe will be placed directly onto the gel and your skin for the duration of the examination. You may also be asked to hold your breath for a few seconds during the scan time. The scan is completely painless, although some pressure may be applied to improve the image quality. Please tell the sonographer if this becomes uncomfortable.
In some instances a transvaginal scan may be indicated. Transvaginal scans are frequently performed during pelvic scans, or in the first trimester of pregnancy and also in the late stages of pregnancy. This is done to get a close up view of the pelvic organs. The transvaginal scan is performed with an empty bladder, and as a result many patients find it more comfortable. The small sterilised probe, about the same diameter as a thumb, is lubricated with gel before insertion into the vagina. A protective cover (a condom) is placed over the transducer each time it is used, so there is no risk of infection. Transvaginal scans are only performed if requested by your doctor or clinically indicated and always with the patient’s consent. Please discuss any issues you may have with the sonographer.
How Long will the Procedure Take?
Most ultrasound examinations will be completed within half an hour, however, some studies will take longer, especially if a transvaginal scan is indicated after the abdominal scan is performed. It is not unusual for the radiologist to come in and speak with you and view the images on the screen. The radiologist will then interpret all images produced during the examination and the results will be forwarded on to your doctor.
Please remember to bring any previous ultrasound or x-ray films to your appointment.