A pelvic ultrasound is a diagnostic tool that uses sound waves to create images of structures and organs in the pelvic region. The organs that the pelvic ultrasound examines include the ovaries, fallopian tubes, uterus and cervix in women, the seminal vesicles and prostate gland in men, and the bladder in both men and women.
There are three types of pelvic ultrasound techniques.
- Transvaginal ultrasound scan: You are encouraged to void before the procedure. During the procedure, a small probe is placed into the vagina to examine the health of your fallopian tubes, ovaries and uterus. Your doctor uses the results to evaluate the thickness of the uterine lining, presence of cysts, tumours and other abnormal growths.
- Transabdominal ultrasound scan: You are encouraged to drink plenty of water before the procedure. During the examination, a conducting gel is applied over your skin and a transducer (a small handheld device) is moved over the lower belly. Transabdominal ultrasound examination is commonly performed to examine the health of your fallopian tubes, ovaries and uterus, follicle development, and detect uterine fibroids, fallopian tube blockage and ovarian cysts.
- Transrectal ultrasound: You are encouraged to clear your bowels with an enema before the procedure. This approach is commonly used in men to assess their pelvic organs including the prostate and seminal vesicles.
A pelvic ultrasound may be indicated for blood in urine (haematuria), bladder problems, growths in the pelvis, colorectal and prostate cancer, infertility, vaginal bleeding, pelvic pain, pelvic inflammatory disease, ectopic pregnancy and benign prostatic hypertrophy. It is also used to guide other procedures such as biopsy, removal of ovarian follicle during IVF or draining a cyst or abscess.
An ultrasound scan is a diagnostic imaging test that is performed by directing high frequency sound waves over the desired organ or part of the body. These waves bounce off body structures like echoes, and are captured by a computer, which converts these waves into an image. Ultrasound during pregnancy is performed to create 3D or 4D images of your developing baby. While 3D images are still pictures, the more advanced 4D ultrasound scans are moving images that produce life-like images of your baby during pregnancy.
A 4D scan is usually carried out between the 22nd and 34th week of pregnancy. An early scan shows clear images of your baby’s body, while scans in the later stages show facial features. The scan is also helpful in checking the movement and growth of the foetus. Ultrasound scans are performed by an obstetrician (a doctor with specialization in pregnancy and childbirth) or a sonographer (a technician trained in ultrasound scanning).
At the ultrasound clinic, you will be asked to arrive with a full bladder. Your family can also attend to view the 4D scan. The ultrasound scan takes about 10 to 15 minutes. The ultrasound scan equipment consists of a hard drive, display screen and a keyboard. Your sonographer uses a sensor, a hand-held device that sends out sound waves and receives the echoes. A clear gel is applied onto your abdomen and the sensor is moved over the gel.
The scan is started with 2D to check the baby’s heart beat and position and then moved progressively to 4D. Images of your foetus are then displayed on a monitor, which are updated continually to display your baby’s movements. If your baby’s face is not visible, your technician may suggest that you take a short walk so that the baby’s position changes. You can view your baby moving on the ultrasound screen and can even save these images for later viewing.
Risks and complications
The 4D ultrasound scan is safe and painless and does not use any harmful rays that may harm your baby.