What is a pelvic ultrasound?

A pelvic ultrasound is a safe, painless procedure that uses sound waves to create images of the pelvic area that are projected onto a computer monitor. During the procedure, an ultrasound technician applies a special gel either directly to the skin of the stomach (to view the pelvic area through the abdomen) or to a probe called a transducer that is then gently inserted into the vagina (for a vaginal ultrasound in women) or the rectum (for a rectal ultrasound in men). High-frequency sound waves are transmitted from the transducer through the gel to the structures in the pelvic area and then bounce back to a computer that uses those sound waves to create an image on the screen.

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
Pelvic ultrasound is also very helpful for minimally invasive procedures like needle biopsies, as a real-time guide for the technician. In children, a pelvic ultrasound can help determine the shape, size and position of organs in the pelvis, and can detect tumors, cysts or extra fluid in the pelvis, and help find the cause of symptoms such as pelvic pain, urinary problems or, in girls, abnormal menstrual bleeding.