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Pelvic Ultrasound: Frequently Asked Questions

Why do I need a full bladder for a pelvic Ultrasound?

Sound waves travel more easily through liquids than through surrounding tissues and air. Consequently, a full bladder facilitates passage of sound waves through it, making the uterus and ovaries behind the bladder easier to see.

Why might I have a pelvic ultrasound exam?

Information obtained from a manual pelvic exam alone may be incomplete. With a pelvic sonogram, the uterus and ovaries are visualized. The sonogram can help explain findings from the manual exam or provide additional information. Common indications for a pelvic ultrasound examination include pelvic pain, abnormal vaginal bleeding and suspicion of an abnormality on a manual gynecologic examination.

Why do I have to fill my bladder for a pelvic ultrasound?

The filled bladder is used as a scanning window and is used to push the bowel out of the pelvic cavity for better visualization of the anatomy. In females, the filled bladder also places the uterus in a more horizontal position for optimal scanning ability.

Why do I have to drink water for a pelvic ultrasound exam?

filled bladder displaces bowel out of the pelvis which allows us the best "window" to see pelvic anatomy.

Why do I have to have a full bladder for a pelvic ultrasound?

Two methods are used for performing a pelvis ultrasound, trans-abdominally (the probe is placed on top of the abdomen) and endovaginally (a special probe is placed inside the vagina). A full bladder is usually necessary when the scan is done transabdominally. A full bladder displaces bowel and acts as a window for the ultrasound waves to pass through to visualize the pelvic organs. Ultrasound doesn't go through air (gas in the bowel) but transmits well through liquid (as in the case of the urine in the bladder). ...
A distended bladder acts as a "window" through which the sound waves travel and allows the sonographer to visualize the pelvic organs. A distended bladder also displaces the bowel, which can prevent visualization of the pelvic organs.

Why do I have to drink a lot of water for my Pelvic Ultrasound?

Fluid in the urinary bladder creates a window to see pelvic organs such as the uterus and ovaries. Ordinarily, these structures are hidden by overlying bowel and are impossible to see without the fluids. The same is true for a Pregnancy Ultrasound.

What can I expect during a pelvic or transvaginal ultrasound exam?

The patient lies on a table with the abdominal area exposed and with a full bladder. The sonographer will put a clear warm gel on the skin surface. The gel helps to transmit the sound waves by excluding air and will not harm your skin or your clothes. An instrument call a transducer is gently moved over the skin surface by the sonographer. Pelvic ultrasound may include a transvaginal ultrasound to better see the ovaries and uterus. In this exam the patient is asked to empty the bladder. ...

How helpful is a pelvic sonogram (ultrasound) in diagnosis of endometriosis?

In cases where endometriosis has produced ovarian endometrioma (chocolate cysts), this test could be helpful to confirm the presence of the cystic mass in the ovaries. Most endometriomas have a specific image of "ground glass" on sonograms as a consequence of collecting old blood and cellular debris. However, this sign is not only seen in endometriosis; the only definite diagnosis of endometriosis is made through laparoscopy. ...

Why do I have to drink so much water for my pelvic ultrasound?

Ultrasound is just that-sound waves. If you've ever been swimming in the lake, you've probably noticed that when you go underwater, you can hear motorboats buzzing around from miles away. That is because water is a great conductor of sound waves, and by filling the bladder with fluids, it allows the ultrasound waves to travel easily through the pelvis, making it easier for the technologist to visualize various regions of interest during your exam.

Why do I need to have a full bladder for a pelvic ultrasound procedure?

Sound waves travel more easily through liquids than through surrounding tissues and air. Consequently, a full bladder facilitates passage of sound waves through it, making the uterus and ovaries behind the bladder easier to see. back to top

Why do I need to have a full bladder for a pelvic and/or obstetrical ultrasound?

A full bladder pushes the intestines out to the sides allowing better view of the uterus and ovaries. A full bladder is essential for adequate visualization of the uterus and the fetus in its early stages. Urine in the bladder also acts as a "window" illuminating the structures behind it.

ULTRASOUND - Why do I need to have a full bladder for a pelvic ultrasound?

Sound waves travel more easily through liquids than through surrounding tissues and air. Consequently, a full bladder facilitates passage of sound waves through it, making the uterus and ovaries behind the bladder easier to see.

How do I know when it is appropriate to have a diagnostic test, such as colonoscopy, mammography, PAP smear, PSA testing, coronary artery screening, pelvic ultrasound, or other screening tests?

Factors such as age, family health history and lifestyle affect decisions concerning diagnostic testing. Basic recommendations for each of these tests are best discussed with Dr. Barley in the course of routine treatment, such as yearly physicals or on the first visit as a new patient.

I am scheduled for a pelvic ultrasound or sonogram. Can I still have it done if I start my period?

Yes, pelvic ultrasound can be done when you are on your period. You may refer to the handout, Ultrasound Examination for additional information.
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