Do you know what transvaginal ultrasound is? This test uses ultrasound technology, which emits and captures sound waves that come into contact with the human body. In this case, the waves are emitted in the region of the woman’s reproductive organs, in order to evaluate the vaginal canal, the cervix, the entire extension of the uterus and the ovaries .
This exam is non-invasive and obtains better images of the regions mentioned than those generated by ultrasound of the abdomen. In this article, we will explain in detail what transvaginal ultrasound is and how it is done, what diseases can be diagnosed through this test and what are the contraindications to perform it. Check out!
What is transvaginal ultrasound and how is it done?
To perform the transvaginal ultrasound examination, also called endovaginal or intravaginal, the woman lies on a stretcher and adopts the gynecological position, that is, bends her knees, placing her feet in the stirrups of the stretcher, and keeps her legs ajar and buttocks slightly raised.
Afterwards, the doctor inserts a tube into the vaginal canal. The tube must be covered with a condom, in order to avoid possible contact with the secretion of other patients, and covered with lubricating gel, which will facilitate entry through the vaginal canal.
The probe, also called a transducer, has the function of emitting high frequency sound waves that come into contact with the intimate organs and return to a signal pickup. This allows high-definition, real-time images to be formed and sent to a monitor. Thus, the doctor assesses the condition of the organs and measures them, generating a diagnostic report that will be delivered by the woman to her gynecologist.
But, after all, why is it necessary to do the transvaginal ultrasound if there is the option to perform the abdominal ultrasound, which is a less annoying exam? As the name of the exam says, it is performed intravaginally, which provides much clearer images, since the bottom of the vagina is very close to the evaluated structures.
However, it is interesting to note that the transvaginal examination does not cause much discomfort. The inserted probe is thin and, when lubricated, easily penetrates the vaginal region. Transvaginal ultrasound is completely painless, but it is normal for some women to experience some discomfort in the vagina or in the lower abdomen due to pressure from the probe.
What is the exam for?
Transvaginal ultrasound can be performed to detect and investigate various health problems. Among them, we can mention tumors, infections, abnormal vaginal bleeding, uterine polyps, infertility or pelvic pain. In addition, this test is very useful for detecting abnormalities and problems in the ovaries.
Another important function is the control of pregnancies, ensuring the well-being and growth of the fetus. In the suspicion of ectopic pregnancy, that is, outside the uterus, transvaginal ultrasound is an excellent method, as it closely investigates the tubes (the site most affected by the fetus outside the uterus). We will detail below some health problems that can be discovered and monitored by transvaginal ultrasound.
Uterine fibroids are a type of tumor in the uterus, that is, an abnormal growth of cells, not malignant. This change usually appears in women of childbearing age and may not cause symptoms. When signs appear, the most common are heavy menstrual bleeding, prolonged menstrual bleeding (more than 7 days a month), pressure or pain in the pelvic area, a feeling or presence of mass in the abdominal area, and pain during sexual intercourse.
If the doctor suspects uterine fibroids, he will order a transvaginal ultrasound. Generally, fibroids are located on the walls of the uterus and are easily located by the method.
Infertility has several causes. One is the anatomical alteration of reproductive structures, such as the ovaries, tubes and uterus. In this case, transvaginal ultrasound is a great way to assess the normality of the structures and check whether or not they are capable of generating a child.
Other common causes of infertility are the polycystic ovary and infections. In this case, the exam will identify the problems and the woman can, with the help of the gynecologist, start a treatment.
The uterus is covered by a tissue called the endometrium, which peels off monthly and forms menstruation. In some women, it is still not known why, the endometrium begins to grow outside the uterus, as in the tubes and ovaries, causing symptoms.
Symptoms include pain in the pelvic area, severe menstrual cramps, escapes, pain during intercourse and difficulty getting pregnant. The diagnosis of endometriosis is made by means of transvaginal ultrasound, since it is possible to identify the endometrium in regions outside the uterus.
The cervical cancer is related to the presence of HPV , a virus that is contracted sexually. Initially, and over several years, cancer in this region does not cause symptoms. The most advanced cases of this type of cancer cause bleeding during intercourse or outside the cycle, abnormal vaginal discharge and pain in the pelvic area.
Transvaginal ultrasound is a great way to identify the problem. To prevent the progression of this cancer, it is enough for the woman to have a Pap test , which detects cellular changes early.
What are the contraindications for transvaginal ultrasound?
Transvaginal ultrasound is not indicated for women who have not yet started sex. However, it can be performed at medical discretion in such cases.
Who performs and requests the transvaginal exam?
This examination is usually performed by a gynecologist or an ultrasound specialist, the sonographer. The transvaginal examination can be ordered by any doctor who suspects changes in the woman’s pelvic region. However, it is more common that it is requested by clinicians and gynecologists, the specialties that most serve women with gynecological complaints.
This examination must be analyzed by a specialist in gynecology, since this professional takes care of the woman’s reproductive organs and may take specific actions for the health problem.