What is a transvaginal ultrasound?

Ultrasound is the term used for high-frequency soundwaves. Ultrasound examinations use these sound waves to produce a picture or image onto a screen showing the inside of your body. An ultrasound is carried out by a trained health professional (sonographer, radiologist or sonologist).

Transvaginal ultrasound is an examination of the female pelvis. It helps to see if there is any abnormality in the uterus (womb), cervix (the neck of the womb), endometrium (lining of the womb), fallopian tubes, ovaries, bladder or the pelvic cavity. It looks at the pelvic organs from inside the vagina using a special smooth, thin, handheld device called a transducer. This differs from an abdominal ultrasound, which uses a warm water-based clear gel applied to the skin of the abdomen and the transducer is moved gently across the pelvic area.

All ultrasound transducers transmit high-frequency sound waves, and these are reflected from different soft tissue, structures or parts in the body in different ways. These sound waves are converted to electrical impulses that produce a moving image on a screen.

An ultrasound has many advantages. It is painless and does not involve radiation, which means it is very safe. The high-frequency sound waves ensure images show very high detail, capable of looking at the very tiniest parts of the body. A health professional will be there with you, and you have the opportunity to communicate any concerns you have.

Why would my doctor refer me to have this procedure?

The test is requested by your doctor if you have symptoms of pelvic pain or abnormal bleeding, or to check for fibroids / tumours of the uterus, polyps (areas of thickening of the lining of the uterus), ovarian cysts or tumours, infertility, or assessment of early pregnancy.

How do I prepare for a transvaginal ultrasound?

No preparation is required. You will be asked to go to the toilet and empty your bladder before the test being carried out. If you are having a period, the examination can still be carried out and it is often an advantage when assessing some gynaecological problems. If you are wearing a tampon, it will need to be removed. Before having the test, you might be asked to sign a consent form. At all times, a patient’s dignity and privacy is protected during the examination.

What happens during a transvaginal ultrasound?

The transducer is slightly larger than a tampon and especially shaped to fit comfortably into the vagina. A protective cover is placed over the transducer and lubricating gel is applied to it for ease of insertion. It is gently moved around the inside of the pelvis and images are taken. You might have your lower abdomen pushed with the examiners hand to try and get some of the pelvic organs closer to the transducer for better pictures.

The examination is carried out in “real time”, which means that the images you see on the screen show the inside of your pelvic (lower abdomen) area.

At the end of the test, the probe is fully sterilized and cleaned. The examination takes between 15–30 minutes.

Are there any after effects of a transvaginal ultrasound?

There are no after effects of a transvaginal ultrasound. You will be able to resume normal activities. You may notice some slight vaginal discharge from the lubrication gel after the test, just for a few hours.

What are the risks of a transvaginal ultrasound?

There are no known risks of having transvaginal ultrasound. It uses sound waves to obtain images and there is not much radiation involved.


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