Pelvic ultrasounds can be used to examine and diagnose problems of:
- the uterus, cervix, ovaries, fallopian tubes and vagina in women
- the seminal vesicles and prostate gland in men
- the bladder and kidneys in both men and women
If you have heart disease, your physician may want to assess the health of the inside of your coronary arteries, which supply blood to your heart. To gather highly detailed images of the artery wall, your physician may use a diagnostic test called intravascular ultrasound (IVUS).
You might already be familiar with ultrasound tests. (Pregnant women receive them, for example, to assess the health and progress of a growing baby.) Ultrasound is a procedure that transmits high-frequency sound waves through body tissues. These sound waves create echoes that are turned into video or photographic images of the organs and internal structures in the body. Ultrasounds can be used to diagnosis a variety of diseases and conditions.
In IVUS, the ultrasound wand that transmits and receives sound waves is inside the body. A physician called an interventional cardiologist threads a thin, flexible tube called a catheter through an artery. This catheter emits sound waves from the tip and then receives the echoes. The echoes show detailed images of a section of the artery wall, including problems such as build-up of a fatty substance called plaque that clogs the arteries or an aneurysm (a bulge in the artery wall caused by a weak spot). IVUS is also used to help interventional cardiologists reopen blocked arteries and place tiny mesh-like metal tubes called stents that prop an artery open. Then IVUS can be used to assess the success of the stent placement. IVUS also provides detailed images of calcium deposits in the wall of the heart arteries. Interventional cardiologists use these images to guide a drilling device called a rotablator, which is used to clear a blockage before placing a stent.
Vascular ultrasound is the general term for a non-invasive, painless test that uses sound waves to create images of blood vessels including arteries and veins. Ultrasound can also measure the flow of blood in these vessels.
Ultrasound can be performed in many locations in the body. For example, the doctor may recommend a lower extremity venous ultrasound if he/she suspects a blood clot in the leg veins. Or, they may recommend a lower extremity arterial ultrasound of he/she suspects peripheral arterial disease. Ultrasound cannot be performed to image blood vessels in the chest because the sound waves do not travel well through the air in the lungs and the waves also do not travel well through the bones of the skull.
Other common types of vascular ultrasounds are carotid ultrasounds, non-invasive flow studies and abdominal aorta ultrasounds.
In a breast ultrasound, high frequency sound waves exposed to breast area produce pictures of the inside of the breast, similar to an X-ray. This allows your radiologist to distinguish between a solid mass (benign or malignant tumors) and a liquid mass (cyst).