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What is an Endovaginal Ultrasound?

By H. Colledge
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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An ultrasound scan is a medical imaging test in which sound waves are sent out from a probe and bounced back. The reflected sound waves are used to create a picture of the scanned area, which is then displayed as a black and white image on a screen. An endovaginal ultrasound, sometimes known as a transvaginal ultrasound, involves a probe being inserted into the vagina. In comparison to an abdominal ultrasound, which involves a probe being moved over the skin of the abdomen, this type of ultrasound provides a more detailed picture of the pelvic organs, in particular the womb and ovaries.

Although many types of ultrasounds are carried out from outside the body, it is sometimes necessary for the ultrasound probe to be positioned inside the body, and an endovaginal ultrasound scan is one example. Internal ultrasound scans commonly are used to view the prostate gland, stomach, gall bladder and esophagus. While these types of medical tests may be uncomfortable, they are not usually painful.

Before the procedure, the patient may be asked to empty her bladder and put on a hospital gown. The position required for the scan is similar to that of a pelvic exam or smear test: lying down with knees bent and the legs drawn apart. A slim probe, covered with a clean sheath and a layer of gel, is introduced into the vagina and images are taken from various angles. This technique provides an in-depth view of the walls and lining of the womb, and the cavity inside it, together with the ovaries.

Endovaginal ultrasounds are used to investigate symptoms such as pelvic pain, lumps in the pelvis, abnormal vaginal bleeding and problems during pregnancy. Conditions which may be seen more clearly with this type of ultrasound include growths inside the womb, such as fibroids and polyps. The extra information obtained from an endovaginal scan can help in the diagnosis of ovarian cysts and cancers of the womb or ovaries. In an emergency, an endovaginal ultrasound may be preferable to an abdominal ultrasound because the patient is not required to have a full bladder.

One disadvantage of this procedure is that the patient may experience more discomfort and the procedure may be a bit more embarrassing than an abdominal scan. Additionally, abdominal ultrasounds have a greater field of view, enabling cysts and growths to be viewed in the upper part of the pelvis, which could be out of range of an endovaginal scan. Sometimes more than one type of scan may be necessary in order to fully evaluate a condition. Typically, scans do not take very long and no harmful effects are known.

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Discussion Comments
By umbra21 — On Mar 09, 2014

@Iluviaporos - It's possible that's true, but it's also possible that it is simply the best procedure available. If a woman is having an abortion after a certain point they need to make sure that there is a fetus in there and that there is nothing abnormal going on so that the operation goes smoothly.

It might just be an unpleasant coincidence that the test for this is so uncomfortable, but it's done for health reasons, not to shame the woman.

By lluviaporos — On Mar 08, 2014

@KoiwiGal - I'm pretty sure this is the test that they have tried to legislate to force women who want an abortion to take it before they can have the procedure. It can be extremely humiliating for some women and that's bad enough, but when someone is getting an abortion because they have been raped, this is basically replicating their hideous experience.

And it sounds like there is no need for it to be done. An ultrasound machine can be used in other ways, like through the bladder. It's basically just being used as a way of trying to make them change their minds, or to punish them for considering that particular course of action.

By KoiwiGal — On Mar 08, 2014

I had to have one of these to identify my polycystic ovarian syndrome and it was not a pleasant experience. I was supposed to make sure that I had a full bladder so that they could use it as a kind of lens to look at my ovaries, but the doctor kept me waiting so long I couldn't stand it and so my bladder was no longer full when they finally called me in.

But the ultrasound equipment managed to identify that I had the condition at least, which was good because not knowing is always worse than knowing. And the procedure wasn't too bad, although I wouldn't want to do it again.

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