An ultrasound, or a sonogram, is a way of examining what’s going on inside of the body. The scans use harmless, high-frequency sound waves that are emitted by a small probe. These cannot be heard by us but echo when in contact with organs, helping the device to create an image.
Ultrasounds are used for a multitude of reasons. A nurse may perform an ultrasound to monitor the development of an unborn baby, investigate a medical condition, or a surgeon may use one as a guide.
There are many types of ultrasounds that you can be requested to undertake:
- External ultrasound – A probe is moved over the skin. Used for examining unborn babies and organs like the heart, liver, and kidneys.
- Internal ultrasound scan – This is also known as a transvaginal ultrasound scan and can be used for fertility testing. A probe is inserted into a woman’s body through the vagina and used to take a closer look at the prostate gland, ovaries, and womb.
- Endoscopic ultrasound scan – The probe is inserted into the mouth and is used to examine the stomach and food pipe.
Preparing for Your Internal Ultrasound Scan
In preparation for your internal ultrasound, you will need to be fully hydrated before your appointment but with an empty bladder. For some scans later in your treatment you will be requested to attend your appointment with a comfortably full bladder. You may find it uncomfortable and want to go to the toilet. However, it is important that you try to avoid this and do so after your scan is complete. These instructions will be given to you and are to help the sonographer when making their assessment.
What to Expect
As explained earlier, a transvaginal ultrasound involves the insertion of a probe. You will be asked to sit or recline on a gynaecology chair with your legs bent outwards and towards you. The probe is shaped like a thin wand and will be lubricated. Your sonographer will gently place the probe into your vagina as far as comfortably possible. During this part, it’s important that you listen carefully to what you’re advised and relax as tensed muscles can make for an uncomfortable process.
The doctor examining you may be able to tell you what their findings are, but if they’re not, they may need to confer with other professionals and take a few days before getting back to you. In other circumstances, you may have to wait for an appointment to be arranged with the doctor that referred you and discuss the results with them.