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Pelvic Ultrasound

Exam Explanation

A diagnostic ultrasound uses high-frequency sound waves to view the lower body, the pelvis. A pelvic ultrasound looks at the bladder in both men and women. In men, it is used to evaluate the prostate gland and seminal vesicles. In women, it is used to evaluate uterus, ovaries, cervix and fallopian tubes. Pelvic ultrasound can be done in three ways: transabdominal, transrectal and transvaginal. Most exams take about 30 minutes.

Exam Preparation

After you arrive for your appointment, you will be asked to remove your clothes below the waist and change into a gown. You may wish to wear a two-piece outfit that day. Be sure to inform the doctor or technician of any allergies, including an allergy to latex.

  • Transabdominal Ultrasound
    • A transabdominal ultrasound requires a full bladder, so your doctor will likely ask you to drink 4 to 6 glasses of water about an hour before the test to fill your bladder. A full bladder helps give a clearer acoustic window for the ultrasound beam to better visualize the pelvic organs.
  • Transrectal Ultrasound
    • A transrectal ultrasound may require an enema about an hour before the exam.
  • Transvaginal Ultrasound
    • You may be asked to empty your bladder.

During the Exam

For most exams, you will be positioned lying face-up on a padded exam table. In some exams, a transducer is attached to a probe that is inserted into a natural opening into the body.

  • Transabdominal – A small amount of gel will be applied to the area being examined. A small handheld transducer is passed back and forth over the lower belly. You may feel a small amount of pressure in your bladder and strong urge to urinate because your bladder is full.
  • Transrectal – A transducer is inserted into a man’s rectum to view his prostate. You will likely feel a little pressure from the transducer probe, but you will feel little pain.
  • Transvaginal – A transducer is inserted into a woman’s vagina to view her uterus and ovaries. A transvaginal ultrasound after gives doctors a clearer picture than a transabdominal because the probe is closer to the organs being viewed. You will likely feel a little pressure from the transducer probe, but you will feel little pain.