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What is it?

Ultrasound is a term used to describe sound that is above the audible range for humans (roughly 20-20000 cycles/sec). Ultrasound has been developed to have a lot of roles in medicine and one of these is termed “imaging”, which is the production of pictures of the body for medical purposes.

Ultrasound imaging uses the ability of sound waves to rebound off objects with a detectable echo. With the aid of a computer the echoes are turned into a picture of the internal structure of living tissues. To do this an ultrasound probe is placed against the surface of the body closest to that part that is to be studied. The probe produces ultrasound waves generated at between 3.5 and 7 MHz (million cycles per second), sending them out in pulses and then waiting for the echo of the returning sound.

Less than 5% of the time that an ultrasound probe is on the skin is spent generating sound waves, because most of the time the device is listening for the returning echoes and generating the image.

How will I feel?

Medical examinations that involve the genital area may obviously be associated with a sense of awkwardness or embarrassment. This is quite normal and everything is done to minimize this as much as possible.

The procedure may cause some discomfort, particularly if there is some underlying pelvic pathology or source of pain that the probe aggravates.

After the procedure, which usually takes 15-30 minutes, you should feel quite normal and able to continue with your normal daily activities.

What are the risks involved?

Vaginal ultrasound studies are very safe. There is no risk of infection and minimal risk of direct injury, unless a pre-existing condition is aggravated.

The sound waves used in ultrasound imaging have been heavily studied and have not been found to be in any way harmful to human tissues.

Will I need time off work?

Only to attend the allocated appointment time. Unfortunately these must be booked for normal office hours which may cause some inconvenience.

Why is it used?

Ultrasound imaging allows for a detailed 2 dimensional “picture” of the internal anatomy of a patient to be recorded. Recent developments have allowed for 3 dimensional images to be created which are starting to be of value in medical diagnosis and treatment.

In a fertility practice, ultrasound is done using a vaginal or “internal” probe. For this, the device is narrowed with an approximate diameter of 2cm and is specially contoured to be able to insert it into the vagina without discomfort. This allows the probe to be as close as possible to the uterus and ovaries. In doing so a higher frequency of sound can be used by the probe and as a result a much sharper image obtained providing more information than from external probes.

Ultrasound imaging of the female reproductive tract is an important part of all gynaecological, obstetrical and infertility practice. It is used to aid in the initial diagnosis, plan surgery, monitor pregnancies and is an essential part of in vitro fertilization. Ultrasound images can also be used to determine how many eggs are to be expected and when they are ready to be released.

Ultrasound imaging of the female pelvis using an external probe requires the patient to have an uncomfortably full bladder so the sound waves can look through the echo-free window the bladder creates to see the womb and ovaries below it.

With a vaginal probe this is not necessary and it is done with a woman lying semi-reclining with an empty bladder. The probe is ensheathed in a sterile protective covering and gently introduced into the vagina in a similar manner to a medical vaginal examination.

As well as having in-house ultrasound capabilities, we offer a full range of ultrasound services offsite at our sister clinic, Ultrasound North. For more information, please visit our companion website.