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Pelvic ultrasound - abdominal

  • Definition
    • A pelvic (transabdominal) ultrasound is an imaging test. It is used to examine organs in the pelvis.

  • Alternative Names
    • Ultrasound pelvis; Pelvic ultrasonography; Pelvic sonography; Pelvic scan; Lower abdomen ultrasound; Gynecologic ultrasound; Transabdominal ultrasound

  • How the Test is Performed
    • During the procedure, you will lie on your back on the table. Your health care provider will apply a clear gel on your abdomen.

      Your provider will place a probe (transducer), over the gel, rubbing back and forth across your belly:

      • The probe sends out sound waves, which go through the gel and reflect off body structures. A computer receives these waves and uses them to create a picture.
      • Your provider can see the picture on a TV monitor.

      Depending on the reason for the test, women also may have a transvaginal ultrasound during the same visit.

  • How to Prepare for the Test
    • A pelvic ultrasound may be done with a full bladder. Having a full bladder can help with looking at organs, such as the womb (uterus), within your pelvis. You may be asked to drink a few glasses of water to fill your bladder. You should wait until after the test to urinate.

  • How the Test will Feel
    • The test is painless and easy to tolerate. The conducting gel may feel a little cold and wet.

  • Why the Test is Performed
    • A pelvic ultrasound is used during pregnancy to check the baby.

      A pelvic ultrasound also may be done for the following:

      Pelvic ultrasound is also used during a biopsy to help guide the needle.

  • Normal Results
    • The pelvic structures or fetus are normal.

  • What Abnormal Results Mean
  • Risks
    • There are no known harmful effects of pelvic ultrasound. Unlike x-rays, there is no radiation exposure with this test.

  • References
    • Benacerraf BR, Goldstein SR, Groszmann YS. Normal pelvic ultrasound and common normal variants. In: Benacerraf BR, Goldstein SR, Groszmann YS, eds. Gynecologic Ultrasound: A Problem-Based Approach. Philadelphia. PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2014:221-233.

      Stolz L, Adhikari S. Point-of-care pelvic ultrasound. In: Lumb P, Karakitsos D, eds. Critical Care Ultrasound. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2015:chap 43.