Ultrasound is a safe and widely used imaging technique. Ultrasound produces detailed pictures of the body in real-time using high frequency sound waves which are produced by a special ultrasound probe, called a transducer. The frequency of these sound waves is higher than that detected by the human ear and when they are reflected by a part of the body they are detected by the probe and used to create images that can be displayed on a monitor.
Because they are captured in real time they appear as moving images not as static or still ones, thus enhancing the diagnostic capability of the test. Ultrasound has no known harmful effects and can be used to image a variety of conditions including pregnancy, gallstones and varicose veins. Ultrasound can also be used to measure blood flow through vessels, when it is called a colour flow Doppler or Duplex scan.
An ultrasound of the female pelvis may be performed by examination of the abdomen, called transabdominal, or by using a special probe designed to be inserted into the vagina, called transvaginal. The type of examination you will need will depend on what your referring doctor has requested and the nature of the clinical condition being investigated.
Who will perform the scan?
Your examination or scan will be performed by either a Radiologist (a highly trained specialist doctor) or a sonographer (a specially trained technologist). Because the examiner is interpreting moving images on a screen a high degree of concentration is required to obtain accurate information. Therefore, in most circumstances except obstetric scans, family and friends of the patient are not generally permitted to watch the procedure. If you have accompanying children you will have to bring along someone to watch them during your examination.
Please eat a fat-free meal 8 hours before your examination and then nothing more until after your examination. You may drink clear fluids (black tea, black coffee, water or cordial) during the 8 hours prior to examination. Please continue to take all your current medication but refrain from smoking or chewing gum during the fasting period. You will be required to drink 1 litre of water gradually between 90 minutes and 60 minutes before your appointment. Do not empty your bladder.
For most ultrasound examinations you will be required to change into a gown and lie on an examination couch. You will remain covered during your examination except for the area being imaged. In order to obtain optimal images a layer of gel will be applied to the area being imaged so that good contact is made between you and the ultrasound probe. The probe will be placed directly onto the gel and your skin for the duration of the examination. You may also be asked to hold your breath for a few seconds during the scan time. The scan is completely painless, although pressure may be applied to improve the image quality. Please tell the sonographer should this become uncomfortable.
In some instances, a transvaginal scan may be indicated. Transvaginal scans are frequently performed in the first trimester of pregnancy and also in the late stages of pregnancy and at other times to get a close up view of the pelvic organs. The transvaginal scan is performed with an empty bladder, and as a result many patients find it more comfortable. The small sterilised probe, about the same diameter as a thumb, is lubricated with gel before insertion into the vagina. A protective cover (a condom) is placed over the transducer each time it is used, so there is no risk of infection. Transvaginal scans are only performed if requested or clinically indicated and always with the patient’s consent. Please discuss any issues you may have with the sonographer.
How long will the procedure take?
Most ultrasound examinations will be completed within 30 minutes, however, some studies will take longer especially if a transvaginal scan is indicated after an abdominal scan is performed. It is not unusual for the radiologist to come in and speak with you and view the images on the screen. The radiologist will then interpret all images produced during the examination and the results will be forwarded to your doctor.
Please note: due to the high demand for these tests, a fee may be charged for appointments that are cancelled within 24 hours prior to the booking.
Please remember to bring any previous ultrasound or x-ray films to your appointment.