What’s a Transvaginal Ultrasound Like and Why Do I Need One?

Jul 6, 2017 10:16:00 AM

Posted by Diane Campbell

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doctor_patient_2-2-1.jpgWhat is transvaginal ultrasound?

In any type of ultrasound examination, a transducer sends out sound waves and receives their echoes, which are then translated into a real-time picture of the internal structures being imaged. Most often, the transducer is pressed against the skin outside the body. In some cases, however, the technologist is able to get more detailed images of particular areas of interest by placing the transducer inside the vagina. While you can request that an external ultrasound exam be performed instead, it’s important to understand that if your doctor has recommended a transvaginal ultrasound, it’s because this type of exam is likely to yield the most helpful information about your condition.


What’s a TV ultrasound exam like?

While no one looks forward to undergoing a transvaginal ultrasound exam, the procedure generally does not cause any physical discomfort, and it tends to be less invasive than a typical annual pelvic exam. If you become uncomfortable (either physically or otherwise) during any medical procedure, it’s important that you communicate this clearly to the professional performing the procedure so they can take measures to ease your discomfort. Any medical professional you trust with your body and your wellbeing should be responsive to your needs and help you to be as comfortable as possible. If you prefer that this exam be performed by a female technologist, do not hesitate to let the provider know this. If they balk at your request, it’s a good sign that a different facility would be better able to serve your needs.

The transducer used in transvaginal ultrasound is smaller than the speculum used in a gynecologic exam, and only two to three inches of it needs to be inserted. Before insertion, the transducer is covered in a sheath and lubricated. The exam is usually performed with the patient on her back, often with feet in stirrups. Your doctor may direct you to drink water prior to your exam to obtain images with a full or partially full bladder, which can provide better views of some areas. The entire exam should only take around 15–30 minutes, depending on what images are needed.


Why is TV ultrasound recommended?

Transvaginal ultrasound allows doctors to get a better look at structures such as the uterus, ovaries, and fallopian tubes as well as assess conditions of a pregnancy. Some common uses of the procedure include

  • Detecting uterine abnormalities, such as fibroids, scarring, endometrial polyps, or cancer
  • Checking for proper IUD placement
  • Following up on abnormal or suspicious abdominal ultrasound results
  • Assessing pelvic pain or unexplained vaginal bleeding
  • Detecting cysts or pelvic infection
  • Checking for ectopic pregnancy or miscarriage
  • Checking placement of the placenta
  • Detecting fetal abnormalities
  • Assessing cervical conditions, especially those that may suggest heightened risk for preterm delivery or miscarriage
  • Monitor fetal heartbeat, which is detectable earlier with a TV exam


At Iowa Radiology, we place a high value on the physical and psychological comfort of our patients. We strive to be an information resource, providing what you need to know to make wise choices about your health care. We welcome any questions you may have about an exam scheduled or performed at one of our clinics, we will do our best to answer them to your satisfaction. We will do everything we can to make your experience with us as comfortable as possible. Click here to contact us with questions or to schedule an appointment at one of our Des Moines-area clinics, or click the image below to get our regular health updates delivered straight to your inbox.


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"Are Ultrasounds Accurate for Finding a Baby's Heartbeat?" VeryWell.com. n.p., 1 Feb 2017. Web. 6 June 2017.

"Transvaginal Ultrasound." InsideRadiology.com. The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Radiologists, 15 Dec 2016. Web. 6 June 2017.

"Ultrasound—Pelvis." Radiologyinfo.org. Radiological Society of North America, Inc., 1 April 2017. Web 6 June 2017. 


The information contained in the Iowa Radiology website is presented as public service information only. It is not intended to be nor is it a substitute for professional medical advice. You should always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider if you think you may have a medical problem before starting any new treatment, or if you have any questions regarding your medical condition.

Iowa Radiology occasionally supplies links to other web sites as a service to its readers and is not in any way responsible for information provided by other organizations.

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Iowa Radiology was founded in 2001 by a group of well-known central Iowa diagnostic professionals who wished to emphasize the personal side of diagnostic care as much as the technical side.


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