Transvaginal ultrasound also known as endovaginal ultrasound is a noninvasive imaging test that is used to examine and produce real-time images of the uterus, cervix, fallopian tube, and vagina.
It is a type of pelvic ultrasound used to examine reproductive organs in females.
The word transvaginal means “through the vagina” which means the test is internal unlike abdominal ultrasound where the transducer is rubbed against your abdomen, in transvaginal ultrasound the transducer is inserted 2-3 inches into the vagina.
Reasons for Performing Transvaginal Ultrasound
Since ultrasound scans are used to produce real-time images of the internal organs/structure, transvaginal ultrasound can be used to diagnose a variety of conditions relating to female reproduction. It can be used to check for;
- Fibroid (an abnormal growth that develops inside the uterus )
- Tumors or ovarian cysts(accumulation of fluid in a thin membrane inside the ovary)
- Pelvic pain
- Irregular vagina bleeding
- Uterine fibroid or cysts
It can also be used check a variety of cases in pregnant women. Such cases include;
- Monitoring the heart beat of the fetus.
- Checking the condition of the placenta.
- Monitor pregnancies with high risk of miscarriage by checking the cervix for changes that could cause complications.
- Check for ectopic pregnancy (a condition that occurs when the fetus is formed in the fallopian tubes outside of the uterus).
- To confirm early pregnancy.
- To verify if an Intrauterine Device(IUD) is properly placed.
Who Performs the Transvaginal Ultrasound
Transvaginal ultrasound is performed by an ultrasound sonographer or technician. A diagnostic radiologist or radiologist is a medical professional who is trained to interprete ultrasound images.
They specialize in interpreting medical imaging tests including MRI scans, ultrasound and CT scans.
Procedures of Transvaginal Ultrasound
Transvaginal ultrasound is performed in a hospital. The procedure of the Transvaginal ultrasound takes less than 30-60 minutes generally. Steps include;
- Lying down on your back with your knees bent on a table in the ultrasound room which usually has dark or dimly light, to enable easy reading of the ultrasound images on the ultrasound screen.
- Depending on the type of examination, you may be asked to empty your bladder or keep a full bladder.
- The sonographer will cover the transducer with a condom and lubricating gel and insert it into your vagina. It is the transducer that sends and receives soundwaves to produce the image on the ultrasound screen.
- The sonographer will slowly move or rotate the transducer in a side-to-side movement while it’s inside your body to have a clear picture of the internal organs.
- The sonographer may apply saline infusion sonography (SIS). SIS involves inserting sterile salt water into the uterus/womb to help stretch the uterus slightly. This will enable the sonographer to have a clear imaging that will help diagnose your condition.
- You may be asked to wait for a short while. Then the diagnostic radiologist will check if the imaging was complete.
- After an imaging test, patient are usually asked to go home.
What you may Experience during and after a Transvaginal ultrasound
During a transvaginal ultrasound, you may experience minimal discomfort as the transducer is inserted into your vagina. Any pain or discomfort during this exam is usually temporary but if pain persists do not hesitate to inform your doctor.
After the Transvaginal ultrasound, you will be asked to dress and sit for a while as the result is being reviewed. You may be given the results or asked to return to the hospital in a few days and should be able to resume normal activities after an ultrasound scan.
Benefits of Transvaginal Ultrasound
Some known benefits of transvaginal ultrasound are listed below:
- It is not painful although it may be uncomfortable temporarily.
- It is noninvasive which means that there are no injections or needles.
- It can be used to confirm early pregnancy.
- It is less expensive and easy to use compared to other imaging methods.
- It is widely available compared to other imaging methods and provides great internal details when accessing soft tissue structures.
- It is completely safe and it uses soundwaves not radiation.
- It provides a more clear picture of soft tissues that did not show up clearly on the x-ray.
Risks/complications of Transvaginal Ultrasound
Although standard ultrasound diagnostics do have a known harmful effect on the human body, but an interpretation of the ultrasound may lead to other procedures and followups.
Limitations of Transvaginal Ultrasound
Though ultrasound scan is painless and has no known harmful effect on the human body, transvaginal ultrasound can be limited by beam degrading effect of the anterior abdominal wall in patients who are obese.
Transvaginal ultrasound is painless and harmless. It a non-invasive test meaning there are no needles involved so you don’t need to be afraid of an ultrasound scan. Ensure you follow all instructions given to you by the technician and ask questions when necessary for clarification.