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Health A-Z

Medical Content Created by the Faculty of the
Harvard Medical School

Pelvic Ultrasound and Transvaginal Ultrasound

What is the test?

Ultrasound uses sound waves instead of radiation to generate snapshots or moving pictures of structures inside the body. Ultrasound works like radar and sonar, which were developed in World War II to detect airplanes, missiles, and submarines that were otherwise invisible. After coating your skin with a lubricant to reduce friction. Then, a radiologist or ultrasound technician places an ultrasound transducer, which looks like a microphone, on your skin and moves it back and forth to get the right view. The transducer sends sound waves into your body and picks up the echoes of the sound waves as they bounce off internal organs and tissue. A computer transforms these echoes into an image that is displayed on a screen.

Pelvic organ ultrasound is used to monitor pregnancy, find cysts on your ovaries, examine the lining of your uterus, look for causes of infertility, and find cancers or benign tumors in the pelvic region. Depending on the view needed, the ultrasound sensor is placed either on your abdomen (pelvic ultrasound) or in your vagina (transvaginal ultrasound).

From Health A-Z, Harvard Health Publications. Copyright 2007 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. All rights reserved. Written permission is required to reproduce, in any manner, in whole or in part, the material contained herein. To make a reprint request, contact Harvard Health Publications. Used with permission of StayWell.

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