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Transvaginal ultrasound

Definition

Transvaginal ultrasound is a test used to look at a woman's reproductive organs, including the uterus, ovaries, and cervix.

Transvaginal means across or through the vagina.

Alternative Names

Endovaginal ultrasound; Ultrasound - transvaginal

How the test is performed

You will lie down on a table with your knees bent. Your feet may be held in stirrups.

You will be given a probe, called a transducer, to place into the vagina. The probe is covered with a condom and a gel.

  • The probe sends out sound waves, which reflect off body structures. A computer receives these waves and uses them to create a picture.
  • The ultrasound technician or doctor can see the picture on a TV monitor.
  • The health care provider will move the probe around the area to see the pelvic organs.

In some cases, a special transvaginal ultrasound method called saline infusion sonography (SIS) may be needed to more clearly view the uterus.

How to prepare for the test

You will be asked to undress, usually from the waist down. A transvaginal ultrasound is done with your bladder empty or partly filled.

How the test will feel

The test is usually painless, although some women may have mild discomfort from the pressure of the probe. Only a small part of the probe is placed into the vagina.

Why the test is performed

Transvaginal ultrasound may be done for the following problems:

  • Abnormal findings on a physical exam, such as cysts, fibroid tumors, or other growths
  • Abnormal vaginal bleeding and menstrual problems
  • Certain types of infertility
  • Ectopic pregnancy
  • Pelvic pain

Transvaginal ultrasound is also used during pregnancy.

 

Normal Values

The pelvic structures or fetus is normal.

What abnormal results mean

An abnormal result may be due to many conditions. Some problems that may be seen include:

  • Birth defects
  • Cancers of the uterus, ovaries, vagina, and other pelvic structures
  • Infection, including pelvic inflammatory disease
  • Growths in or around the uterus and ovaries (such as cysts or fibroids)
  • Twisting of the ovaries

What the risks are

There are no known harmful effects of transvaginal ultrasound on humans.

Unlike traditional x-rays, there is no radiation exposure with this test.

References

Katz VL. Benign gynecologic lesions: vulva, vagina, cervix, uterus, oviduct, ovary, ultrasound imaging of pelvic structures. In: Lentz GM, Lobo RA, Gershenson DM, Katz VL, eds. Comprehensive Gynecology. 6th ed. Philadelphia, Pa : Mosby Elsevier; 2012: chap 18.

Coleman RL, Ramirez PT, Gershenson DM. Neoplastic diseases of the ovary: Screening, benign and malignant epithelial and germ cell neoplasms, sex-cord stromal tumors. In: Lentz GM, Lobo RA, Gershenson DM, Katz VL, eds. Comprehensive Gynecology. 6th ed. Philadelphia, Pa : Mosby Elsevier; 2012: chap 33.


Review Date: 7/11/2012
Reviewed By: Ken Levin, MD, private practice specializing in Radiology and Nuclear Medicine, Allentown, PA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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