Infertility Tests: Pelvic Ultrasound

When your doctor begins to treat you for infertility, one of the first infertility tests she may order is a pelvic ultrasound. A pelvic ultrasound is a common medical procedure that uses sound waves to produce internal images of the body on a computer screen. A pelvic ultrasound looks at a woman’s bladder, ovaries, cervix, uterus and fallopian tubes.

Who Should Consider a Pelvic Ultrasound?

A pelvic ultrasound is a common medical test for examining the pelvis. Your physician may order this test if you are experiencing pelvic pain, abnormal vaginal bleeding or a lack of menses. The test is also used to determine the thickness of the uterine lining, which is linked to endometriosis.

How a Pelvic Ultrasound Is Performed

A pelvic ultrasound can be preformed in three different ways, transrectal, transabdominal and transvaginal. In each of these exams, a camera, or transducer, is used to produce high-resolution pictures. Sound waves are emitted from the transducer to the body. As these sound waves bounce, or echo, off of organs, images are created on a computer monitor.

Transrectal exams are typically only preformed on males. During a transabdominal exam, a transducer is passed over the lower belly. This is this most common method used to look for uterine fibroids. During a transvaginal exam, a wand-shaped tranducer is inserted into the vagina. This method captures images of ovarian cysts, fibroids, benign uterine tumors and endometriosis.

An ultrasound examination is typically preformed at a doctor’s office, hospital or a radiology clinic. During the exam, the patient lies on the examination table with her pelvis exposed. A special gel is applied to the pelvis during the transabdominal exam. This ensures that there is no air between the skin and the transducer. The technician or doctor guides the transducer to reveal the shape, size and density of pelvic organs and tissues. At times during the exam, the technician may use a computerized tool called a caliper to measure organs.

Risks

Ultrasounds have been safely used in medicine for over 30 years. During a transrectal or transvaginal ultrasound, there is a slight risk of infection but aside from this, an ultrasound has almost no risk for complications.

Results

A pelvic ultrasound detects the shape and size of the uterus, cervix, ovaries and vagina. A normal exam would show a normal shape, size and location of ovaries, cervix and uterus. These organs would be free of growths, tumors or cysts.

An abnormal ultrasound could show a big or abnormally shaped uterus, a greater than normal endometrium, or pelvic inflammatory disease. Free fluid cyst, tumors or abnormal blood flow patterns may be detected during an ultrasound. Through ultrasound images, your physician should be able to tell the difference between a solid tumor and a fluid-filled cyst.

If a scan presents any of these abnormalities, further diagnostic, surgical or pharmacological treatments may be needed. 

Cost

An ultrasound costs less than other internal image options, such as a CT scan or MRI. The national average price for an ultrasound is $525.