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

What is better at Evaluating for Heart Disease and Stroke? MRI or CT?

With the constant advertisements about what is “heart healthy” or “preventative” it can be difficult to decipher what is actually beneficial to your health and what is just clever marketing. Heart disease and stroke are two of the leading causes of death in the United States. Everyone knows that a well-balanced diet and regular exercise are some of the best ways to keep your heart well and to offset the chance of developing a stroke, but what else can be done? If you have a history of heart disease or stroke in your family, or if you are high-risk for these conditions, a good way to determine your probability of developing these conditions is for you and your doctor to consider having medical imaging procedures performed regularly. The two most recommended for these conditions would be an MRI or CT scan. Read more to find out which of these procedures or others will provide the most warning if you are at risk for a heart attack or stroke.

MRI

MRIs or magnetic resonance imaging is a medical imaging procedure that uses a combination of magnets, radio waves and computer technology to create highly detailed images of the body’s internal organs. MRIs are particularly beneficial for the detection and diagnosis of cardio-vascular disease because of the ability of the machinery to see the difference between healthy and diseased tissue which can be symptomatic of heart disease or blood clot.

MRIs can be performed on both the brain and the heart. Images will be taken of the aorta, and surrounding blood vessels to determine the functionality and condition of these structures. These procedures are the easiest ways for your doctor to see if there are areas for concern. If there is an alarming image or if your doctor just wants to be thorough, he may recommend you have an echocardiogram or further cardiac testing.

CT Scan

CT scans are another extremely beneficial medical imaging test that doctors use to help determine the probability of heart attack, stroke and other conditions. CTs or computed tomography use computers and x-ray technology to produce cross-sectional images of the body. If you are concerned about the condition of your heart or the possibility of a stroke, having a CT scan performed is recommended because they can image bone, soft tissue and blood vessels all at once in order to determine the functionality of all of these elements together.

CTs can be performed on every part of the body but if the possibility of heart disease or stroke is worrying you, you can ask your doctor to order a screening Calcium Score test and if abnormal to consider a CT angiogram (CTA) or a standard angiogram. During a CTA, contrast material is injected into the body in order to highlight the functionality of the blood vessels and arteries in the chest. If there is a blockage in this area, the contrast will allow doctors to see the exact location so that imaging can be localized to that area. If your doctor is concerned about the possibility of stroke in the brain, they may order a perfusion CT, a new imaging technique that draws maps of the blood flow in the brain, the blood volume and the time blood takes to travel throughout the brain. Using these technologies, doctors are better equipped to find problem areas in the brain and access the risk of stroke.

Which Should I get then?

In conclusion, CT scans are not as proficient at seeing the details of soft tissue as MRIs are but MRIs and CT are some of the best imaging procedures that a patient can have if they are concerned about stroke or heart attack. Speak to your physician or radiologist about having these imaging tests performed to better understand the possible risks and results.

Looking for a CT scan or MRI near New Orleans, Louisiana? At Doctors Imaging, our radiologists are concerned with patient care. You can schedule your imaging exams online, or by calling 504-883-8111.

What Imaging Procedures Should Men Over 50 be Considering?

Heart disease and cancer are the leading causes of death for men over the age of 50 in the United States. Whether this is because of genetic defect, health condition or lifestyle is unclear, but what is perfectly clear is that these two conditions account for more than 45% of the deaths of men between the ages of 45 and 54 (and that number increases to 53% for ages 65+). It is an unfortunate fact that everyone gets old, but more so, visits to your physician can become critical and significant visits if the proper procedures are not performed. If you are nearing or over 50 years of age, even if you feel that you are in good health, discussing these procedures with your doctor can be a great preventative measure to keep you healthy and fit longer.

Your first line of defense in medical imaging procedures could begin with a chest X-ray. X-rays may seem like an archaic medical practice but they are effective in determining many conditions in the chest. A chest X-Ray is inexpensive and may unveil correctable conditions that improve your health. If you are a heavy smoker between the ages of 55 and 80 a low dose lung cancer  CT screen is now considered essential to save lives .

An ultrasound is also a prudent procedure that men over the age of 50 should consider having. Ultrasounds are useful for examining the internal organs and blood flow throughout them. Ultrasounds are used in examining areas like the thyroid and scrotum. In determining conditions like prostate growth or enlargement, ultrasounds may be the first procedure your doctor will order. Ultrasounds are usually painless and non-invasive.

Men over 50  may benefit from a having a CT CALCIUM SCORE TEST. Whether you have lived a healthy, active lifestyle or you spend most of your time eating cheeseburgers and soda, a chest CT scan can be a huge indicator of serious medical problems such as heart disease and cancer. CT scans can help determine problems such as heart tumors, coronary heart disease, and the vascular abnormalities that can lead to heart attack and stroke.

MRIs can provide additional detailed information regarding tumors and cardiovascular disease. MRI scans of the heart structures and blood flow to the surrounding organs can highlight areas containing blockages or diseased tissue. You may feel fine now, but inside, you could be a ticking time bomb and having these procedures done will help to show areas that require attention. A fear of medical procedures, because you’re worried bad news will come back, does not help the situation. Instead, think about how something unfortunate, when caught early enough, can be treated to keep you healthier and happier for years, if not decades longer.

If you’re a man over 50 who hasn’t had imaging procedures performed yet, take the time today to discuss preventive health with your doctor and make an appointment. It just might save your life!