Transvaginal ultrasound is a test used to look at a woman's reproductive organs, including the uterus, ovaries, and cervix.
Transvaginal means across or through the vagina. The ultrasound probe will be placed inside the vagina.
How the Test is Performed
You will lie down on a table with your knees bent. Your feet may be held in stirrups.
You will be given a probe, called a transducer, to place into the vagina. The probe is covered with a condom and a gel.
- The probe sends out sound waves, which reflect off body structures. A computer receives these waves and uses them to create a picture.
- The ultrasound technician or doctor can see the picture on a TV monitor.
- The health care provider will move the probe around the area to see the pelvic organs.
In some cases, a special transvaginal ultrasound method called saline infusion sonography (SIS) may be needed to more clearly view the uterus.
How to Prepare for the Test
You will be asked to undress, usually from the waist down. A transvaginal ultrasound is done with your bladder empty or partly filled.
How the Test will Feel
The test is usually painless, although some women may have mild discomfort from the pressure of the probe. Only a small part of the probe is placed into the vagina.
Why the Test is Performed
Transvaginal ultrasound may be done for the following problems:
- Abnormal findings on a physical exam, such as cysts, fibroid tumors, or other growths
- Abnormal vaginal bleeding and menstrual problems
- Certain types of infertility
- Ectopic pregnancy
- Pelvic pain
The pelvic structures or fetus is normal.
What Abnormal Results Mean
An abnormal result may be due to many conditions. Some problems that may be seen include:
- Birth defects
- Cancers of the uterus, ovaries, vagina, and other pelvic structures
- Infection, including pelvic inflammatory disease
- Growths in or around the uterus and ovaries (such as cysts or fibroids)
- Twisting of the ovaries
There are no known harmful effects of transvaginal ultrasound on humans.
Unlike traditional x-rays, there is no radiation exposure with this test.
Endovaginal ultrasound; Ultrasound - transvaginal
Coleman RL, Ramirez PT, Gershenson DM. Neoplastic diseases of the ovary: Screening, benign and malignant epithelial and germ cell neoplasms, sex-cord stromal tumors. In: Lentz GM, Lobo RA, Gershenson DM, Katz VL, eds. Comprehensive Gynecology. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Mosby; 2012: chap 33.
Katz VL. Benign gynecologic lesions: vulva, vagina, cervix, uterus, oviduct, ovary, ultrasound imaging of pelvic structures. In: Lentz GM, Lobo RA, Gershenson DM, Katz VL, eds. Comprehensive Gynecology. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Mosby; 2012: chap 18.
Update Date 7/28/2014
Updated by: Cynthia D. White, MD, Fellow American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Group Health Cooperative, Bellevue, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.