A pelvic ultrasound uses sound waves to make a picture of the organs and structures in the lower belly (pelvis).
A pelvic ultrasound looks at the bladder and:
- The ovaries, uterus, cervix, and fallopian tubes of a woman (female organs).
Organs and structures that are solid and uniform (such as the uterus and the ovaries) or that are fluid-filled (such as the bladder) show up clearly on a pelvic ultrasound. Bones or air-filled organs, such as the intestines, do not show up well on an ultrasound and may keep other organs from being seen clearly.
Pelvic ultrasound can be done usually by two ways: transabdominal and transvaginal.
- Transabdominal ultrasound. A small handheld device called a transducer is passed back and forth over the lower belly. A transabdominal ultrasound is commonly done in women to look for large uterine fibroids or other problems.
- Transvaginal ultrasound. The transducer is shaped to fit into a woman’s vagina. A woman may have both transabdominal and transvaginal ultrasounds to look at the whole pelvic area. A transvaginal ultrasound is done to look for problems with fertility. In rare cases, a hysterosonogram is done to look at the inside of the uterus by filling the uterus with fluid during a transvaginal ultrasound. Sometimes, a small sample of tissue (biopsy) may be taken with small tools inserted through the vagina during a transvaginal ultrasound.
In pelvic ultrasound, the transducer sends the reflected sound waves to a computer, which makes them into a picture that is shown on a video screen. Ultrasound pictures or videos may be saved as a permanent record.
Why It Is Done
For women pelvic ultrasound may be done to:
- Find out what is causing pelvic pain.
- Look for the cause of vaginal bleeding.
- Look for pelvic inflammatory disease (PID).
- Find an intrauterine device (IUD).
- Look at the size and shape of the uterus and the thickness of the uterine lining (endometrium).
- Look at the size and shape of the ovaries.
- Check the condition and size of the ovaries during treatment for infertility.
- Confirm a pregnancy and whether it is in the uterus. Pelvic ultrasound may be used early in pregnancy to check the age of the pregnancy or to find a tubal pregnancy (ectopic pregnancy) or multiple pregnancy.
- Check the cervical length in a pregnant woman at risk for preterm labor.
- Check a lump found during a pelvic examination.
- Check uterine fibroids found during a pelvic examination. Pelvic ultrasound may also be done to check the growth of uterine fibroids.
- Guide a procedure to remove an ovarian follicle for in vitro fertilization.