Common Ultrasound Exams for Women’s Health

Technician uses handheld ultrasound device
Most women are familiar with ultrasounds for supplemental breast cancer screenings and pregnancy imaging, but what are the other occasions when a physician might order an ultrasound exam for women? Learn more about the life-saving capabilities these ultrasound exams provide.

How Ultrasounds Work

Ultrasounds use a combination of sound waves and computer technology to create internal images that doctors and patients seek. Ultrasounds are often used as a preliminary method of imaging. This means that when doctors suspect a problem and think that it is an area that the ultrasound will be able to view, they will use this method first because ultrasounds aren’t invasive or have side effects. Ultrasounds examine the internal organs, tissues and blood flow throughout the body, determining the blood flow through the heart, imaging breast tissue and guiding biopsy needles.

Almost any part of the body can undergo an ultrasound exam which makes it a faithful go-to for doctors.

These Are the Ultrasound Exams Many Women Receive

BREAST CARE: Ultrasound of the breast may be used for women who are at high risk for breast cancer or women who are pregnant and should not be exposed to x-rays used in a mammogram. Ultrasound of the breast can also be used to screen women who have dense breast tissue, meaning there are a lot of ducts, glands, fibrous tissue and less fat making it harder to find cancers with a mammogram.

HEART HEALTH: A major benefit that ultrasounds can provide for women is helping women determine their possibility of heart attack or stroke. Both of these conditions occur when the blood flow to the brain or heart is blocked. By using ultrasound technology, doctors can hear problems like weak valves, blockages, and murmurs. Heart disease is the leading cause of death around the world and the highest killer of women around the world. The best way to combat this statistic, besides better health, diet, and exercise, is to have regularly scheduled check-ups with your primary care physician. As you get older, your doctor will likely recommend several kinds of tests to determine your cardiac health, so don’t forget to sign up for a cardiac ultrasound. The ability to see movement via ultrasound is particularly beneficial for those women concerned with their cardiac health as the movement of blood will be the biggest indicator of that problem.

PELVIC: In women, a pelvic ultrasound is most often performed to evaluate these parts of the body:

  • uterus
  • cervix
  • ovaries
  • fallopian tubes
  • bladder

Ultrasound examinations can help diagnose symptoms experienced by women such as:

  • pelvic pain
  • abnormal vaginal bleeding
  • other menstrual problems

Ultrasound exams also help identify:

  • palpable masses such as ovarian cysts and uterine fibroids
  • ovarian or uterine cancers

PREGNANCY: Ultrasounds are the best form of medical imaging for expectant mothers because ultrasounds are non-invasive and do not have the concern of radiation. Mothers can see their baby’s outline, hear their heartbeat and determine their child’s health.

TRANSVAGINAL: These exams go across or through the vagina (the genital canal in the female, extending from the uterus to the vulva).
A transvaginal ultrasound is usually performed to view the endometrium (the lining of the uterus) and the ovaries. Transvaginal ultrasound also evaluates the myometrium (muscular walls of the uterus). Sonohysterography allows for a more in-depth investigation of the uterine cavity. These exams are typically performed to detect:

  • uterine anomalies
  • uterine scars
  • endometrial polyps
  • fibroids
  • cancer, especially in patients with abnormal uterine bleeding

Learn More About Ultrasound Exams

Can I Have an MRI During Pregnancy?

When we become injured or sick, it can be troubling, but with support and medicine, we can treat ourselves and our symptoms. However, when a woman is pregnant and becomes sick or injured, there are more lives than hers to consider during treatment. There are lists of activities and products that pregnant woman have to avoid but should medical imaging be one of these? We are going to discuss the precautions and protections in place to help keep both mommy and baby healthy.

The first thing that probably comes to mind when considering the danger of medical imaging while pregnant is radioactive substances and procedures that utilize this kind of medicine. And when we think of radioactive medical procedures, the first that come to mind are X-rays, CTs, and PET-CT scans. All of these procedures have a radioactive element. But before expectant mothers become worried, they should know that there are safety guidelines for their benefit.

Expectant mothers should not be barred from accessing potentially life-saving imaging procedures. As such, medical imaging equipment manufacturers and researchers work hard to give the best quality equipment along with the safest for all potential patients. Being the oldest form of medical imaging technology, X-rays have been used by pregnant women since their invention. Having your X-rays performed at a facility like Doctors Imaging means that your doctor and our radiologists will seek alternatives to radiation and, if unavoidable, will work to reduce the dosage of radiation exposure. As with all medical procedures, if you think that you might be pregnant, be sure to let your doctor or the radiology technician know.

At Doctors Imaging, the procedures that seem to cause mothers the most worry are CT scans and MRIs. Please know that CT scans use X-rays combined with computer technology in order to compose images for medical use. Pregnant women: Please talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of CT scans.

The other procedure we hear the most concern about from expectant mother is an MRI. Fortunately, we can often alleviate these concerns because MRIs are one of the safest procedures for pregnant women. Having an MRI during pregnancy is safe because MRIs, or magnetic resonance imaging, only use the magnetic mechanical components along with radio frequencies in order to map the interior of the body. There are absolutely no radioactive components for mothers to worry about and the detail that can be gleaned from MRIs during pregnancy is both valuable and necessary. At Doctors Imaging, our 3T MRI technology is the most powerful MRI in clinical use for every part of the body. For MRI patients with claustrophobia, we also have an open MRI machine this tends to be much less intimidating.

Finally, please know that we don’t recommend PET-CT scans for pregnant or breastfeeding mothers. PET (positron emission tensor imaging CT scans) use nuclear medicine in order to highlight differences between healthy and diseased tissue in the body and brain. This test utilizes a radioactive drug that is administered directly into the body. This drug can be harmful to the baby. Often, physicians will find an alternative diagnostic method in these cases.

We are committed to keeping both mom and baby as comfortable and healthy as possible at Doctors Imaging. If you have more questions about X-rays, CT scans or MRIs during pregnancy, please feel free to call our offices in Metairie at 504-883-8111, Monday through Friday.