Pelvic Ultrasound

An ultrasound, also known as a sonogram, is a painless imaging technique that produces images of internal organs through the use of high-frequency sound waves. It is a noninvasive, simple procedure that produces images of soft tissues, which often don't show up well on X-rays. A pelvic ultrasound is commonly used to view the abdominal organs, male and female reproductive organs, and to obtain images of a fetus in the womb. There is no ionizing radiation used during an ultrasound and there are no serious side effects associated with this procedure.

Reasons for a Pelvic Ultrasound

A pelvic ultrasound provides pictures of the structures and organs in the lower abdomen and pelvis. A pelvic ultrasound may be performed to investigate symptoms such as abdominal pain, and abnormal menstrual bleeding in women. Pelvic ultrasound exams are also used to monitor the health and development of a fetus during pregnancy. An ultrasound may also be perfomed on women to evaluate the following organs:

  • Uterus
  • Cervix
  • Ovaries
  • Fallopian tubes
  • Bladder

A pelvic ultrasound may be performed on men to evaluate the:

  • Bladder
  • Prostate
  • Seminal vesicles

Many pelvic disorders can be detected by using ultrasound as a diagnostic test. A pelvic ultrasound can help to identify kidney stones, ovarian cysts, endometrial polyps, uterine fibroids, tumors and other disorders of the bladder and urinary tract.

The Pelvic Ultrasound Procedure

The patient should wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothing and may be asked to change into a gown before the procedure. In all types of pelvic ultrasound procedures, the technician moves a transducer, a special handheld instrument, across or within the area being examined. The transducer enables sound waves to be transmitted back and forth between the body and the device. The transducer then relays this information to a computer and images are created. An ultrasound is generally painless, but the procedure may be slightly uncomfortable, depending on the type being performed.


A transabdominal ultrasound is the most common type of pelvic ultrasound. Usually the patient will lie face-up on the examining table. A soft gel is spread across the abdominal surface to help sound waves travel between the machine and the body.


A transvaginal ultrasound is commonly performed on women to view the uterus and the ovaries. The transducer is lubricated with a small amount of gel and then placed inside the vagina.


During a transrectal ultrasound, the patient will lie on his side facing away from the examiner. The transducer is lubricated with a small amount of gel and placed into the rectum. This test is often performed on men to view the prostate gland.

The images from the test are analyzed by a physician and the results are discussed with the patient. A pelvic ultrasound usually takes about 30 minutes to complete.

There are no risks associated with a pelvic ultrasound and patients can return to regular activities immediately following the test.

Additional Resources