USG abdomen and pelvis uses sound wave: Is it painful

USG – Ultrasound Sonography Test is a procedure that helps to scan the internal organs of the body by using high-frequency sound waves. USG abdomen and pelvis is a very simple, non-invasive and pain-free method, used to assess the structure and organs of the lower abdomen and pelvis.

There are three types of ultrasound:

  • Abdominal
  • Vaginal (for women)
  • Rectal (for men)

Ultrasound is safe, non-invasive and does not use ionizing radiation to assess the organs.  

What is Pelvic ultrasound?

Ultrasound produces pictures of the internal structures and organs of the area by using high-frequency sound waves. It is also known as pelvic scan, pelvic sonography, transabdominal ultrasound, transvaginal ultrasound, transrectal ultrasound, etc.

To conduct an ultrasound, a small probe known as transducer and gel is applied on the skin directly, to allow the high-frequency sound waves from the transducer to travel from the probe into the skin to produce the real-time images of the area, as well as the movement of the organs and blood flow in the blood vessels. Unlike X-rays, ultrasounds do not use radiation. In some cases, the doctors might use the Doppler ultrasound technique, which is a specialized ultrasound technique used to determine the movement of materials such as blood flow through arteries and veins. 

Common uses of the pelvic ultrasound

This non-invasive, pain-free technology is used to examine various organs in both men and women. In women, a pelvic ultrasound is generally performed to analyze:

  • Uterus
  • Cervix
  • Ovaries
  • Fallopian Tubes
  • Bladder
  • Vagina

During pregnancy, a pelvic ultrasound helps to assess the health and growth of an embryo or fetus.

In men, a pelvic ultrasound is conducted to view:

  • Bladder
  • Prostate gland
  • Seminal vesicles

A pelvic ultrasound may be recommended to women to check:

  • Structural problems in the uterus and ovaries
  • For ovarian, uterus or bladder cancer
  • For intrauterine device (IUD)
  • Abnormal growth such as tumours, fibroids and cysts
  • Cause of abnormal vaginal bleeding
  • For other menstrual problems
  • Fertility problems
  • Baby’s growth during pregnancy
  • For infection in uterus, ovaries or fallopian tubes
  • For ectopic pregnancy
  • for any tissue samples to be used for biopsy

A pelvic ultrasound may be recommended to men to check:

  • Problems of the bladder, prostate gland and seminal vesicles
  • Tumours or stones in bladder 

Methods of pelvic ultrasound

A pelvic ultrasound can be performed through two distinct ways, namely: 

Transabdominal: This involves getting the pictures of the organs through the abdomen by placing the transducer on the abdomen and using the gel to see inside 

Transvaginal: This method involves inserting a flexible, long and thin transducer covered with gel, as well as latex sheath – into the vagina to assess the internal organs.

The type of method used depends on the area that needs to be diagnosed and the reason for assessment. 

Preparation for the ultrasound

In the case of a transabdominal ultrasound, the bladder needs to be full for which one is advised to drink at least 8 glasses of water or any other fluid, one hour before the ultrasound. This enables the organs to protrude clearly in the pictures.

However, for a transvaginal ultrasound, the bladder needs to completely empty and hence, it is advised to use the washroom immediately before the ultrasound. 

Procedure of the ultrasound

The pelvic ultrasound, no matter the method, is easy, quick and does not cause any pain. The ultrasound is done by a transducer that uses the gel and transmits high-frequency sound waves to assess the organs. These sound waves bounce off when they reach the organs and tissues and produce an echo directed to the transducer that appears in the form of pictures on the monitor or screen.

he procedure for each type of pelvic ultrasound is slightly different from the other: 

Transabdominal Ultrasound: In this, the patient lies on the back and then a transducer covered with gel is placed on the abdomen and made to move back/forth smoothly to provide a complete picture of the organs and tissues. The gel keeps the air from entering between the device and the skin. 

Transvaginal Ultrasound: In this, the patient lies on the back with feet up in the air to allow the transducer covered in gel and latex sheath to be inserted into the vagina, similarly like a tampon. 

Transrectal Ultrasound: This procedure is done in men, where the patient lies on the side keeping his back towards the technician, while a transducer covered with gel and a cover is placed inside the rectum. 

Risks of Ultrasound

Apart from minor discomfort during a transvaginal or transrectal ultrasound, there are no other risks that arise from an ultrasound.  

Post Ultrasound

After the procedure, a radiologist prepares a report of the ultrasound images, to be analyzed by the doctor. The report will provide an assessment of any problems in the area of assessed. The results will then be communicated in simpler terms to the patient. After this, the doctor might recommend some other tests to get deeper insights such as: 

Hysteroscopy: For careful and deeper assessment of the uterus, the doctor might undertake another procedure where a flexible, long, thin and light device is inserted through the vagina into the uterus to assess for problems. 

Laparoscopy: For careful and deeper assessment of the pelvis, the doctor will insert a flexible, long, thin and light device through the abdominal wall.

In all, an ultrasound of the abdomen and pelvis is safe, quick and does not cause any pain. It is one of the best non-invasive methods to assess the lower abdominal and pelvic organs.