Who will perform my ultrasound?
At Preferred Women’s Healthcare Group highly trained Sonogaphers will serve you. They are all Board Certified Diagnostic Medical Sonographers.
Our lead Sonographer, Retha Potgieter, is nationally certified by the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonographers in OB/GYN and Breast sonography. In addition, she is also nationally certified by The American Registry of Radiologic Technologists in Abdomen & OB/GYN sonography.
What is an Ultrasound?
A medical ultrasound is a procedure that uses high frequency sound waves to create images of the internal organs, tissues and vasculature of the human body. The reflected sound waves are returned as echoes. The echoes are then recorded and displayed as a real-time visual image. Ultrasound does not use any radiation; therefore it is safe, even for unborn babies.
What is OB/GYN Sonography?
GYN (Gynecologic) sonography refers to the use of ultrasound to visualize organs found within the pelvis.
Ultrasound is a valuable diagnostic tool that can assist in the detection of abnormalities.
Most of our ultrasounds are performed with a transvaginal probe and exams are typically completed within 20-30 minutes. Occasionally transabdominal imaging is done as well. On gynecological ultrasounds we routinely measure the uterus, endometrial lining, and the ovaries. A GYN sonogram can help identify ovarian cysts, uterine fibroids, as well as ovarian or uterine masses.
Transvaginal ultrasound is an internal ultrasound. It involves scanning with the ultrasound probe lying in the vagina. Transvaginal ultrasound is performed very much like a gynecologic exam and involves the insertion of the transducer into the vagina. This procedure requires that the patient empties her bladder before the exam.
Transvaginal ultrasound usually produces better and clearer images of the female pelvic organs, because the ultrasound probe lies closer to these structures.
The transvaginal ultrasound probe is thin, about 2cm diameter. The probe is covered with a disposable protective sheath. A small amount of ultrasound gel is placed on the end of this probe. The probe is then gently inserted a short distance into the vagina.
Transabdominal ultrasound involves scanning through your lower abdomen. Transabdominal ultrasound usually provides an overview of the pelvis rather than detailed images. The transabdominal assessment is particularly helpful for the examination of large pelvic masses extending into the abdomen, which are not always well viewed with transvaginal ultrasound.
A small amount of ultrasound gel is put on the skin of the lower abdomen, with the ultrasound probe then scanning through this gel. The gel helps improve contact between the probe and your skin.
Why would I need a Pelvic Ultrasound?
Not all women need to have a pelvic ultrasound.
Your doctor may find a pelvic ultrasound useful in the investigation of a number of problems including:
- Dysfunctional uterine bleeding
- Heavy or painful periods
- Pelvic pain including pain during intercourse
- Irregular or infrequent periods
- Postmenopausal bleeding
- Ovarian cysts
- Fibroids in the Uterus
- IUD Placement and String check
The pelvic ultrasound may not provide your doctor with all the answers to your problems, but it may be very helpful in diagnosis and management.
Your referring doctor will decide if further treatment or tests are needed.
What will I see on my Pelvic Ultrasound?
The pelvic ultrasound will usually examine a number of anatomic structures:
- The uterus.Common disorders affecting the uterus include uterine fibroids (benign muscular growths) and adenomyosis (benign infiltration of the endometrium into the surrounding uterine muscle). Both these conditions are commonly associated with heavy and/or painful periods.
- The endometrium (the lining of the uterus).The endometrium changes appearance throughout the menstrual cycle. It is usually thin just after the periods have finished and before ovulation (the proliferative phase). The endometrium becomes progressively thicker and whiter on ultrasound as the menstrual cycle progresses after ovulation (the secretory phase).
The endometrial thickness is measured and the appearances of the endometrium are noted.
A common disorder causing abnormal vaginal bleeding is an endometrial polyp (a growth of the endometrium).
Sometimes a saline sonohysterogram may be suggested to better view the endometrium and any suspected problems.
- The cervix.The cervix lies at the lower end of the uterus, very close to the tip of the transvaginal ultrasound probe. Problems affecting the cervix that ultrasound may detect include cervical fibroids or polyps, and advanced cervical cancer. Ultrasound will not detect precancerous changes in the cervix known as CIN – these changes require a pap smear for diagnosis.
- The ovaries.The ovaries change appearance throughout the menstrual cycle, with ovulation occurring midcycle. Follicles of varying size and number are seen within the tissue of the ovary. Follicles are a normal part of the ovary, and the structure within which eggs mature.
Problems affecting the ovaries include endometriosis (a condition which may cause pelvic pain and infertility), ovarian cysts (both benign and malignant), polycystic ovaries (an appearance which may be associated with irregular periods, acne, hirsutism and altered serum hormone levels) and pelvic adhesions (scar tissue causing the ovaries to adhere to surrounding structures such as the uterus).
- The fallopian tubes.A normal fallopian tube is very thin and not usually seen on a pelvic ultrasound.
A fallopian tube which is blocked and filled with fluid (called a hydrosalpinx) may be detected.
- The adnexae.The adnexae are the areas on each side of the uterus, around where your ovaries are located.
Problems in the adnexae include hydrosalpinx (blocked fallopian tubes), ectopic pregnancy (pregnancy abnormally located in the fallopian tube) and appendicitis (this is sometimes detected during a pelvic scan if the appendix lies in this area).
What happens if I have my period at the time of the appointment?
A pelvic ultrasound can be performed at any time during the menstrual cycle. Your referring doctor will let you know if it is more appropriate to have your pelvic ultrasound at a particular time during your cycle. Most pelvic conditions can be adequately assessed at any time of the menstrual cycle.
The best time to have your pelvic scan is usually just after your period has finished. The timing of your scan may be more important if your doctor is concerned about an endometrial problem such as endometrial polyps (growths of the endometrium). The endometrial lining becomes thin just after the period has ceased, making polyps easier to view.
It is not always possible to make an appointment just after your period has finished, especially if you have irregular or prolonged bleeding. If the doctor is uncertain about the endometrium, it may be suggested that you have another ultrasound after your next period or have a Saline Sonohysterogram instead.
Your privacy will always be respected during a pelvic ultrasound, especially the transvaginal examination. You will have a towel covering your lower body.