Pelvic Ultrasound Instructions and Q&A’s

What are pelvic ultrasounds?


Ultrasound uses high frequency sound waves which pass through the skin and are reflected off the organs to create a picture on a screen with the help of a computer.


A pelvic ultrasound scan can be performed in two ways:  abdominally or vaginally.


Are ultrasounds safe?


Ultrasound imaging is considered safe when performed by appropriately trained health care providers for medically necessary examinations.


What is an abdominal scan?


This scan is performed by gliding an electronic device (abdominal tranducer) over the abdomen while using the full bladder as a “window”. It provides a broad perspective of the pelvic organs.


What is a vaginal scan?


This scan is performed through the vagina using a slender shaped vaginal transducer which provides more detailed images than an abdominal scan.  It gives clearer information for almost all women, but is particularly useful in women who:


  • Are being assessed as part of a fertility treatment
  • Are unable to maintain a full bladder
  • Are post-menopausal
  • Have a retroverted (tilted back) uterus
  • For early pregnancy


This procedure is routinely performed unless you feel it is not appropriate for you, or you have never had vaginal sexual intercourse or an internal examination.  If you are concerned about having a vaginal scan, this should be discussed with the ordering physician prior to scheduling your ultrasound appointment.


What are the main differences between abdominal and vaginal ultrasound scans?


A vaginal ultrasound looks at a smaller focused area and creates a clearer picture because the transducer probe is closer to the organs due to being inserted into the vagina.


Abdominal ultrasound provides a wider picture or more general view of the pelvic organs.


How do you prepare for an abdominal ultrasound?


In order to perform this ultrasound scan you must have a full bladder.


To achieve this, you should empty your bladder exactly 1 hour before the exam and then immediately start drinking 32 oz. of water – making sure to finish within 10-15 minutes.  It can take on average 40 minutes for the water to make its way down to your bladder after drinking the water.   It is very important your bladder be full, so please don’t use the restroom until after the exam is completed.


Sometimes if a patient is unable to fill the bladder, or if further detail needs to be obtained, a vaginal scan may also need to be performed.


How do I prepare for a vaginal ultrasound?


Please have a bath or shower before you come in for your scan. You will be asked to empty your bladder before going for your scan.


What happens during the scan?


You will be taken into a slightly darkened examination room by the sonographer who will ask you to lie on the examination table.  For vaginal scans, she will ask you to undress from the waist down and provide you with a sheet to cover your lap.


For abdominal scans, your abdomen will be exposed and some warm gel is placed on it.  A small transducer, which produces the sound waves, will be moved over your skin to examine the ovaries and uterus.  Sometimes a better image is achieved by applying some pressure, which may cause some discomfort with having a full bladder.   At the end of the scan, tissue is provided for you to wipe off the gel.  You will be directed to the nearest restroom for you to  empty your bladder.


For vaginal scans, once you are undressed from the waist down and covered, the tech will ask you to lie on your back with your knees bent. Most women find the examination less uncomfortable than having a Pap smear performed. Once you are in a comfortable position, a clean, lubricated, covered transducer will be gently inserted into your vagina. The transducer is a little bigger than the size of a finger or tampon. Only the tip of the transducer (about 2-3 inches) is put in the vagina to look at the uterus and ovaries.


Can I bring someone with me?


Yes, you are welcome to bring someone with you, but because of the limited size of the exam room, we ask that no more than two adults accompany you.


Due to safety reasons, small children MUST be supervised by another adult during your exam or your appointment will need to be rescheduled.


How long do ultrasound exams take?


Depending on your anatomy and the time it takes for the sonographer to take appropriate measurements of your pelvic organs, an examination can take approximately 15-20 minutes.


Can I record or photograph my scan?


No, photography or video recording is strictly prohibited during ultrasound scans.   The sonographer will provide you with printed photos for obstetric scans, but please understand that these cannot be replicated or replaced.


How will I learn the results?


The images will be sent electronically to a specially trained radiologist, Dr. David Nyberg,  who will read the images and create a written report.  This report will be sent to the  MD or WHNP who ordered the exam.  Once they’ve reviewed the report, they will communicate the findings with you.   This process can take up to 10 days.


Please note:  Sonographers are not licensed to practice medicine and therefore are not permitted to discuss what they see on the screen with you. 


Can I drive home?


Yes, there are no known side-effects from this procedure.











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