Pelvic ultrasound can be defined as the use of high-frequency ultrasonic waves to create pictures of the pelvic organs to aid diagnoses. These ultrasonic waves enter the body from an instrument called a transducer; when the waves hit an organ they are reflected by the internal structures and produce echoes which then return to the transducer. This data is then processed by a CPU which determines the distance travelled and creates the ultrasound image or sonogram.
When a patient complains about symptoms related to the pelvic region, the benefits and ease of ultrasound make it a natural choice in diagnoses. It is regularly in conjunction with a physical examination of the region in order to provide a more detailed overview which can be difficult to detect externally.
There are many reasons why a doctor may recommend a pelvic ultrasound for a patient however the procedure is most commonly used during pregnancy or as one of the steps in order to determine the reason for infertility. During pregnancy the ultrasound can detect a number of important attributes which if left could cause complications. This enables healthcare to be proactive and solve or treat issues with pregnancies before they become too serious. Besides the medical benefits it has been proven that engaging mothers with the ultrasound procedure during pregnancy greatly improves maternal bonding, and as such ultrasound is often looked upon with excitement for mothers some even booking extra ultrasound procedures in order to obtain 3D images of their baby.
Some of the things that ultrasound can detect during initial stages of pregnancy are:
- Size of the fetus and ascertain estimated due date
- Discover multiple fetuses
- Determine if the fetus is alive (viable)
- Distinguish between intrauterine and ectopic pregnancy
During the later stages of pregnancy ultrasound can also aid with:
- Measuring fetal growth
- Ascertain any abnormalities in the anatomy
- Look at the amniotic fluid and placenta
Applying ultrasound to the pelvis can establish many things about the body; it can determine the size and shape of various organs within the pelvis such as the bladder and can help aid diagnoses with regards to bladder dysfunction. It also has the ability to discover:
- Free fluid
Although generally ultrasound is taken with the transducer placed on the patient’s abdomen there have been advances in technology within this area that allow more specialized equipment to be used in other places in order to obtain clearer images within the pelvis. The transducer has been altered in order for it to be able to be placed within a women’s vagina in order to provide brighter sonograms, named transvaginal ultrasound it is useful for scans during very early pregnancy. Recent legislation in the US has also made these compulsory in some states in order to obtain a termination. Similarly men can have a probe inserted rectally called transrectal ultrasound which is regularly used to scan the prostate.
What to do before a pelvic ultrasound examination?
To prepare for a pelvic ultrasound the patient is normally required to drink several glasses of water 1-2 hours before their appointment is due and to avoid urinating if at all possible until the sonogram is completed. Toilets are normally located very near to the scanning booth and some discomfort can be experienced during this time.
The reason this is asked is because when the bladder is full it forms a path or “acoustic window” for the ultrasonic waves to pass though, leading to clearer images for the ultrasound technician. Patients are normally instructed if this drinking is necessary, however if unsure it is better to err on the side of caution and drink the water; it is a lot easier to empty your bladder if unnecessary than to sit in the waiting room for an hour drinking water to fill your bladder.
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