Transvaginal ultrasound scan

An ultrasound scan is a procedure that uses high frequency sound waves to create a picture of a part of the inside of your body.

The ultrasound scanner has a probe that gives off sound waves. The probe looks a bit like a microphone. The sound waves bounce off the organs inside your body, and the probe picks them up. The probe links to a computer that turns the sound waves into a picture on the screen.

Ultrasound scans aren't painful but can cause some discomfort. You might have it at one of the following:

  • your GP surgery
  • local community clinic
  • in your hospital x-ray department

A specialist healthcare professional called a sonographer usually does the test. 

A transvaginal ultrasound scan can show up changes in your womb, ovaries or surrounding structures. For example, thickening of the womb lining.

Preparing for your scan

There is no special preparation before having a transvaginal ultrasound.

You may need to empty your bladder before the scan. Your appointment letter may say if you need to have an empty bladder. If it doesn't you can check when you arrive. 

What happens?

You usually have this scan in the imaging department or gynaecological outpatient clinic.

A doctor (radiologist) or sonographer will do your scan. A sonographer is a trained professional who specialises in ultrasound scanning.

When you are in the scan room, they’ll ask you to undress from the waist down. You can wear a hospital gown or they’ll give you a sheet to cover yourself with.

You lie on your back on the scanning couch with your knees bent and legs apart. If this position is difficult for you, you may be able to lie on your side with your knees drawn up to your chest.

The doctor or sonographer puts a protective cover over the slim ultrasound probe and covers it with lubricating gel.

They gently put the probe into the lower part of your vagina. If you’d prefer, you can put the probe in yourself, similar to putting in a tampon. The scan may feel uncomfortable as they move the probe around. But it shouldn’t hurt and isn’t usually painful, so tell the sonographer if this is the case.

The scan takes around 15 minutes.

Sometimes, you might have an ultrasound probe put on your tummy (abdomen) as well (abdominal ultrasound). You usually need a full bladder for this.

After your scan

The doctor or sonographer will give you a tissue to wipe away any gel. You can get dressed and usually go home straight away.

Possible risks

An ultrasound scan is a safe test.

You may have some slight discomfort during the scan.

Getting your results

You should get your results within 1 or 2 weeks. The doctor who arranged the scan will give them to you.

Some hospitals have specialist post menopausal bleeding clinics where you get the results the same day, and you can have further tests if you need them.

If you have abnormal changes in your womb, you’ll need a biopsy to find out the cause. A biopsy involves your doctor takes samples of the womb lining. They send them to a lab so they can be looked at closely under a microscope.

Waiting for test results can be worrying. It may help to talk to a close friend or relative about how you feel.

You can also call the Cancer Research UK nurses on freephone 0808 800 4040. The lines are open from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday.
  • ESMO-ESGO-ESTRO Consensus Conference on Endometrial Cancer: diagnosis, treatment and follow-up

    N Columbo and others (2016) 

    Annals of Oncology 27: 16–41

  • The Royal Marsden Manual of Clinical Nursing Procedures, 9th edition
    L Dougherty and S Lister (Editors)
    Wiley-Blackwell, 2015

Last reviewed: 
23 Jan 2022
Next review due: 
10 Feb 2024

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