Gynecological ultrasound: simple, safe and useful for women

Gynecological ultrasound is not only useful in pregnancy. There are multiple applications for this safe and painless method that takes care of women’s health.

Last update: 26 January, 2022

Gynecological ultrasound is a noninvasive imaging test (painless for women) that uses ultrasound to visualize and analyze the female internal genitalia. A device (transducer) is used that emits high-frequency sounds imperceptible to the human ear, with which images are obtained.

This test is very valuable, due to the large amount of information it can give. Among other things, it reports the following:

  • Analysis of the uterus: shape, size, orientation.
  • Display of the endometrium and the cervix.
  • Identification of the ovaries and configuration of its structure.

What are the differences between abdominal and transvaginal gynecological ultrasound?

gynecological ultrasound examination It can be done in two ways: abdominal route or transvaginal route. In the first, the images are obtained through the wall of the abdomen, where the ultrasound transducer is placed, impregnated with gel to
enhance the transmission of ultrasound, it will scan to visualize the different structures.

In transvaginal ultrasound, on the other hand, the transducer has an elongated shape and is inserted through the vagina, wrapped in a kind of condom, to guarantee hygiene. In this way, you get closer to the internal structures, so the image quality and resolution are higher, improving accuracy.

Abdominal route indications

  • Abnormalities in the anatomical structure of the uterus, fallopian tubes, or ovaries.
  • Conditions of the endometrium, such as endometriosis.
  • Presence and position of an intrauterine device (IUD).
  • Cysts or different types of masses or tumors in the organs or tissues of the pelvis.
  • Infections, such as pelvic inflammatory disease (PID).
  • Confirmation of an ectopic pregnancy.
  • Study of the size of the follicles in the ovary when evaluating fertility.
  • Analysis of the best time for egg aspiration in fertilization procedures in vitro.
It could be said that obstetric ultrasound is a variant of abdominal gynecological ultrasound, focused on the health of the mother-child binomial.

Indications for the transvaginal route

  • Better evaluation of the cervix and other structures in the area.
  • Useful in obese women or with a lot of abdominal fat.
  • Evaluation of the endometrium and the possibility of applying fertilization techniques invitro.
  • Detect masses or loose fluid in the pelvis.

What diseases can it detect?

Although it is very useful to detect certain pathologies, its use in pregnancy, family planning and the review of some contraceptive methods is no less important. It plays a fundamental role in the early detection of precancerous gynecological alterations, whose early diagnosis improves the prognosis.

In general, among the areas of analysis of this type of ultrasound, the following should be highlighted:

  • Menstrual imbalances or changes.
  • Vaginal bleeding in menopause.
  • Fertility treatments, such as artificial insemination.
  • Insertion of an intrauterine device (IUD).
  • Masses or tumors.
  • Inflammatory or infectious processes.
  • uterine prolapse.

Does gynecological ultrasound have contraindications?

It has to be clear that the ultrasound It is a non-invasive and safe test. At the time of performing it, no type of radiation is used, the woman does not have to be sedated, it does not hurt (although the transvaginal form can be uncomfortable) and prior preparation is not usually necessary.

Even having had sexual intercourse close to completion or menstruating does not affect the interpretation of the results.

How to prepare for a gynecological ultrasound?

In general terms, Little preparation is needed for this test. It is enough that the woman is relaxed. In principle, the phase of the menstrual cycle in which it is performed does not matter, although depending on what you want to analyze specifically, one time or another may be more convenient.

In addition, it is not necessary to go on an empty stomach. Only the fact of drinking 1 liter of water one hour before the test and not urinating should be considered in abdominal ultrasound. If the bladder is full, the resolution of the images will be better.

If what is going to be done, instead, is a transvaginal ultrasound, it is advisable to urinate so that the bladder is empty. In this form of the complementary method, the woman will lie in a gynecological position, with her legs bent and her heels resting on a stirrup. You must remain relaxed while the probe with the transducer is inserted through the vagina.

How often should the study be done?

The indication and performance of a gynecological ultrasound will depend on a series of factors, such as the presence of pain, menstrual imbalances or fertilization problems. This will condition that the study can be carried out more or less often.

What is advisable is that adolescent women start gynecological exams once they start having sex. These reviews may be annual.

In any case, going to a gynecological check-up does not mean that you always have to have an ultrasound. Like all complementary tests, its prescription remains in the hands of the doctor, depending on factors such as family history, degree of sexual activity, possible associated symptoms and the suspicion of a diagnosis.

The annual gynecological consultation allows a follow-up of the state of health that makes the detection of alterations more probable.

two special situations

There are two special cases in which gynecological ultrasound is vitally important. One of them is the early detection of pregnancy and the other is the early diagnosis of uterine cancer.

1. Can a pregnancy be detected early with a gynecological ultrasound?

Indeed, with a gynecological ultrasound it is possible to know if the woman is pregnant. Although the usual thing is to first arrive at this confirmation through a urine pregnancy test, through which a high concentration of pregnancy hormones is detected.

For an ultrasound to detect the first signs of pregnancy, it is necessary that at least 4 weeks of gestation have passed. Before it is not possible because an ultrasound does not visualize structures that measure less than 1 millimeter.

But beyond the early detection of a pregnancy, Ultrasound is useful for monitoring the health of the fetus during its development and analyze a series of parameters, such as the fetal heartbeat, its location and placement, the location and characteristics of the placenta. Also, as the baby increases in size, obstetric ultrasounds will give information about the sex.

2. Is gynecological ultrasound useful in the prevention of uterine cancer?

Although the uterus can be analyzed on an abdominal ultrasound, the recommended imaging test is transvaginal, since the endometrium is better visualized by this route.

Women have to be very attentive to symptoms that may be behind a problem in the uterus, such as abnormal bleeding, irregular cycles, or pain in the pelvic area.

Thanks to the images obtained in a transvaginal ultrasound, suspicious or premalignant lesions can be detected in early stages. If any of them is visualized, it will be necessary to extend the study through a biopsy to send to the pathology laboratory.

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