What Is a Transvaginal Ultrasound?
A transvaginal or endovaginal ultrasound is a diagnostic procedure for gathering medical information on the female reproductive system. It is conducted by inserting a wand-like instrument called a transducer into the vaginal canal. The transducer emits high-frequency sound waves that are converted by computer analysis into visual images appearing on a screen for study by the medical team. This technology can provide evidence of structural or tumorous abnormalities that are associated with a range of reproductive, fertility, pregnancy, and overall health issues. Ultrasounds of this type are normally pain-free and carry few, if any, side effects.
The transvaginal ultrasound is an increasingly popular means of evaluating female reproductive health. It is also becoming common for women in the first trimester of a pregnancy to undergo this procedure, because it provides better visual information about the fetus than an abdominal ultrasound at that stage of development. To learn more about transvaginal ultrasound and its powerful diagnostic capabilities, see a Baptist Health gynecologist.
When Is This Procedure Performed?
There several reasons why a gynecologist might arrange a transvaginal ultrasound for one of his or her patients:
- The patient’s inability to get pregnant (fertility issues)
- A difficult or medically troubled pregnancy
- Investigation of intrauterine device (IUD) placement
- Unusual vaginal bleeding
- Pelvic or abdominal pain
- Visual confirmation of the existence of fibroids, cysts, or cancerous tumors
- As a follow-up to an abnormal pelvic exam.
Transvaginal ultrasounds are also performed during pregnancies. They can be used to collect health data on the fetus or to safeguard against the possibility of a miscarriage or premature delivery.
How Do I Prepare for a Transvaginal Ultrasound?
Preparing for a transvaginal ultrasound is relatively simple. You should take these steps prior to the procedure:
- Drink 32 ounces of a clear, non-alcoholic liquid – water, soda, or Pedialyte – one hour beforehand. This should be done in a 30-minute time span. Do not urinate before the examination. A full bladder lifts the intestines, which improves the ultrasound’s visual representation of the reproductive organs.
- Bring your doctor’s order with you to the examination facility.
- The ultrasound can be performed even if you’re menstruating. You will, however, need to remove your tampon prior to insertion of the transducer.
A full bladder is not required in every instance. Your gynecologist will advise you whether the ultrasound requires a full or empty (evacuated) bladder.
What Should I Expect During This Procedure?
Once you’ve arrived at the examination facility, you can expect:
- To change into a hospital gown
- To be transported to the examination room, where a medical technician will explain your procedure
- To be placed on your back with your legs raised, similar to a pelvic exam.
A transducer will be inserted into your vagina. It will be lubricated and the insertion should be painless. The transducer will use sound waves to paint a picture of your reproductive organs. Your medical team will see these images on a television screen. They will use the information provided by these images to formulate a medical diagnosis.
The entire procedure should last no more than an hour.
What Are Possible Side Effects of a Transvaginal Ultrasound?
Transvaginal ultrasounds are largely without medical risk. There are no documented side effects linked to the use of this technology.
What Results Should I Expect from a Transvaginal Ultrasound?
The results of your transvaginal ultrasound will be analyzed a radiologist, who will share them with your gynecologist. The latter will explain the findings to you in your follow-up meeting.
Medical conditions detected by a transvaginal ultrasound include:
- Ectopic pregnancy (when a fertilized egg attaches to a part of the reproductive system outside of the uterus)
- Placenta previa (when the placenta settles lower in the abdomen than is healthy during pregnancy)
- Fibroids and cysts
- Pelvic structural issues
- Cancerous tumors.
Learn More About Transvaginal Ultrasounds at Baptist Health
For more information about transvaginal ultrasounds, or to schedule an appointment, please contact one of our Baptist Health gynecologists.