Ovarian ultrasound is a type of medical imaging which is used to visualize the ovaries. This type of ultrasound may be used in cases where it is suspected that a patient has a problem with her ovaries, or in patients who are undergoing evaluation for infertility. Like other types of ultrasound, it can be performed as an outpatient procedure in a medical clinic or hospital, and the ultrasound imaging may be done by a doctor or by an ultrasound technician.
Ultrasound imaging uses sound waves to create a picture of what is going on inside the body. It works much like radar, with the sound waves bouncing off the body cavity and being interpreted on their return. Based on changes in the sound waves, the ultrasound machine can draw a picture of the area of interest. The image may be static or moving, and it can provide lots of information about a patient's body without the need for invasive surgery.
In an ovarian ultrasound, the ultrasound probe is often used transvaginally, which means that it is inserted into the vagina to get a better picture of the ovaries. While it is possible to see the ovaries with abdominal ultrasound, in which the ultrasound probe is simply run over the abdomen, the picture is not as clear with abdominal ultrasound, and a doctor may miss critical information as a result.
The patient will be asked to prepare for an ovarian ultrasound just as she would for a pelvic exam. The person administering the imaging study will apply lubricant and a conductive gel to the probe before inserting it, and he or she will usually try to work quickly to minimize patient discomfort. If a doctor is conducting the ultrasound, he or she may point out features of interest or concern, while an ultrasound technician is not allowed to offer medical information, although he or she may provide anatomical information if asked.
Two things which are commonly looked for in an ovarian ultrasound are ovarian cysts, which indicate a medical problem, and the follicles. Doctors count follicles to asses fertility, and a patient's response to fertility drugs. The more follicles a woman has, the more fertile she is.
A doctor will interpret the results and provide information about next steps for the patient. If an ovarian ultrasound reveals signs of ovarian cancer, for example, the patient may need to start cancer treatment. In the case of a patient seeking assistance with fertility issues, the ultrasound can suggest next steps, such as testing the patient's partner, or embarking on a course of fertility treatment.