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Pelvic Ultrasound: examination for observing the lower abdominal area

Pelvic ultrasound is a simple and harmless imaging diagnostic examination that allows investigation of the condition of organs and other structures in the lower abdominal area, including: in women, the vagina, fallopian tubes, cervix, ovaries, bladder, and the terminal part of the intestine (rectum and sigmoid), in men, the bladder and the prostate.

This type of analysis does not involve the use of ionizing radiation or the injection of radioactive substances, so it has no contraindications. Pelvic ultrasound is performed by emitting ultrasound waves which reflect differently in various tissues, thus reconstructing images and providing the opportunity to identify any pathologies.

The purpose of pelvic ultrasound is to investigate and evaluate the condition and structure of the organs found in the lower abdominal area. With this tool, it is also possible to identify any atypical masses, effusions, or structural abnormalities within them. In particular, pelvic ultrasound is useful for distinguishing cysts (usually benign) from solid masses (often malignant).

Often, pelvic ultrasound is performed by the doctor during the collection of a tissue sample for histological examination (biopsy) or for drainage of fluids from a cyst.

In males, this examination is performed by the radiologist or urologist and is useful for evaluating an increase in prostate volume or bladder emptying capacity.

In females, it is performed by the gynecologist or radiologist to assess the condition of the uterus, ovaries (ovarian ultrasound), and the possible presence of pelvic masses. In women, pelvic ultrasound is particularly useful for investigating the causes of the following conditions:

  • Infertility problems or abnormal vaginal bleeding
  • Pelvic pain
  • Amenorrhea
  • Tumors or malformations of the ovaries and uterus
  • Presence of fluids or masses in the uterine muscle tissue
  • Dilatation of the fallopian tubes
  • Placental abnormalities

This type of examination ensures timely diagnosis to proceed with the most appropriate therapy and to counteract any pathology highlighted during the analysis.

There are three types of pelvic ultrasound:

  • Abdominal (transabdominal or suprapubic) for both sexes
  • Vaginal (transvaginal, intravaginal) for women
  • Rectal (transrectal) for men

External pelvic ultrasound, or abdominal ultrasound, is performed using a probe placed directly on the patient’s skin in the area to be examined. This is done after applying a transparent gel that facilitates the sliding of the probe and allows the ultrasound waves to spread.

The ultrasound waves emitted by the device transmit a reflected signal that is captured and sent to the operator in the form of images. These are displayed on a monitor next to the operator and the patient, allowing the necessary information to be examined and a diagnosis to be established or further tests to be recommended to the patient.

This type of analysis can be performed on both male and female subjects and does not require any preliminary procedures or precautions from the patient before the examination.

In female subjects, external pelvic ultrasound is referred to as transabdominal ultrasound and can be performed instead of or in addition to transvaginal ultrasound, as in the case of adolescents or virgin women.

In male subjects, it is referred to as bladder ultrasound or suprapubic ultrasound and allows for the evaluation of the bladder, prostate health, and the possible presence of a lobe obstructing the urinary walls. It also allows us to assess the presence or absence of calcifications.

External pelvic ultrasound can be performed during the first month of pregnancy to show the initial images of the embryo. This type of examination can also be repeated in later stages of pregnancy to monitor fetal development and obtain more detailed information about all structures located near the cervix, without causing any harm to the baby.

Pelvic ultrasound: how it’s done?

Internal pelvic ultrasound can be performed in two methodologies based on the patient’s gender.

In women, it is called transvaginal ultrasound or ovarian ultrasound and is performed by inserting a probe into the vaginal canal. This type of examination allows for better evaluation as the probes can approach the organs being monitored significantly. Transvaginal ultrasound can also be performed during menstruation. This examination allows for a thorough investigation of the uterus and ovaries and can detect:

  • Uterine abnormalities
  • Uterine scars
  • Fibroids
  • Tumors

In men, on the other hand, internal pelvic ultrasound is also called transrectal ultrasound and involves the insertion of a probe into the rectal canal. Again, we have a better assessment of the status of internal male organs thanks to the proximity of the probe.

Both transvaginal and transrectal ultrasound require the patient to have a full bladder, so it is important to drink about half a liter of non-carbonated water at least one or two hours before the examination. To avoid any bloating, it is necessary for the intestine to be clean, so the patient is required to follow a light diet in the days leading up to the examination. The duration of the analysis is about 30 minutes, it is painless, and there are no risks or complications.

Factors that may hinder a good visualization of the images include severe obesity, presence of intestinal gas, or insufficient bladder filling. In case of past abdominal surgery, the examination may encounter difficulties during execution.

At the MiniHospital “Sandro Pertini” diagnostic imaging area, transvaginal ultrasound is performed with a Philips Affiniti 50 ultrasound machine, which allows for ultrasounds and color Doppler scans to be performed with speed and maximum accuracy of results.

For this examination, booking is required. To make an appointment, you can send an email to, call our office at 0587.609134, or fill out the form below.

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