Frequently Asked Questions

Are ultrasound scans painful?

Transvaginal ultrasound scan should not cause any significant discomfort and they are much easier to tolerate than smear tests. Transvaginal scans cannot be performed on women who have never been sexually active and in these women transabdominal scans are preferable. In women who developed vaginal atrophy after menopause transvaginal examinations may be more uncomfortable. In order to minimise discomfort application of a lubrication gel containing local anaesthetic may make the examination easier to tolerate. Alternatively, local application of hormone oestrogen in the form of vaginal tablets or cream for one to two weeks prior to the examination may also be helpful.

How long does it take to complete the examination?

The examination typically takes five to ten minutes to complete. In women with complex findings such as multiple fibroids or extensive endometriosis the examinations usually last five to ten minutes longer.

Do I need to have a full bladder?

Full bladder is not required for transvaginal scans. The examination is more accurate and it is better tolerated if the bladder is completely empty. Women who attend for transabdominal scans; however, should try to fill their bladder prior to the examination.

Can I have a scan if I am bleeding?

Vaginal bleeding does not affect quality of ultrasound diagnosis and scans can be safely performed on women who attend during menstrual periods or on those who are experiencing irregular vaginal bleeding.

Is there a risk of infection?

Our infection control policies are very stringent and we employ very elaborate procedures for cleaning of the ultrasound probes. Prior to and after each examination the probes are thoroughly cleansed using both antiseptic and sterilising agents.  Our doctors wear gloves during examinations and disposable probes covers are always used to provide additional protection from infection.

What if I am allergic to Latex?

Allergy to Latex is rare, but is can sometime cause severe anaphylactic reactions. If you think that you may be allergic to Latex please let us know so that we can avoid using gloves and probe covers which contain Latex during your examination.

How long will it take for my doctor to receive the report? Could I have a copy?

In most cases our reports are generated within minutes of completing the examination. We normally send reports by fax to your doctor and we also send hard copies by post. We do not routinely e-mail reports because of confidentiality issues.  However, we would be happy to e-mail your report to your doctor if you specifically request us to do so. You can also request a copy of your report and ultrasound images. We do not routinely perform video-recording of gynaecological scans, but we can arrange that easily if you wish us to do so. We do; however, offer DVDs with  records of the examinations to women attending for early pregnancy scans.

Can endometriosis be seen on the scan?

Until recently it was not possible to diagnose endometriosis on ultrasound scans. With the improvements in the quality of transvaginal scanning and better understanding of the condition it is now possible to diagnose endometriosis in most women affected by it. Ultrasound scans are not only useful for the detection of endometriosis, but they can also assess its severity. This is helpful in deciding whether conservative treatment or surgery is best suited for individual women. Detection of endometriosis involving bowel, urinary bladder and ureters is particularly useful in women undergoing surgery. Information about the presence of disease at these difficult sites improves planning of surgery, decreases the risk of complications and helps to ensure the availability of bowel surgeons or urologists.

Can you see Fallopian tubes on the scan?

Normal Fallopian tubes are very thin and they cannot be routinely seen on the scan. If the tubes are damaged, they tend to fill with fluid which facilitates their visualisation. Tubal patency can be tested using a procedure called HyCoSy which is described in the section on the services we offer to women with concerns about their fertility.

Is it possible to detect ovarian cancer on the scan?

Ovarian cancer can be accurately diagnosed on ultrasound scan. The best and most accurate way to diagnose ovarian cancer is by performing a systematic and detailed examination of the tumour and the adjacent structures in the pelvis and abdominal cavity. The advantage of this approach is that it provides the information about the nature of the tumour instantly in the vast majority of cases, without the need of additional blood tests such as CA125.

Is it safe to have a scan in early pregnancy?

There is no evidence that ultrasound scans can harm pregnancies. It is important to ensure; however, that the energy of ultrasound beam is kept low. Use of pulsed Doppler devices to measure blood flow should be avoided in the first weeks of pregnancy as their energy output is higher compared to the ultrasound beam used for standard imaging. Our equipment is fully compliant with the international standards for safe use in pregnancy and the machine energy output is continuously monitored during the examination.

How soon after a missed period can pregnancy be seen on the scan?

A normal intrauterine pregnancy can be first seen on the scan three days after a missed menstrual period. In women who fall pregnant after fertility treatment such as ovarian stimulation the pregnancy can be seen 17 days after ovulation. In women who conceive after IVF the pregnancy can be seen 17 days after the day of oocyte collection. There are, however, small variations in the timing of conception and women who wish to confirm that their pregnancy is located within the uterus are advised to delay their attendance until a week after the missed period (or three weeks after conception) to avoid coming for the scan too early. This is particularly important in women with uterine abnormalities such as fibroids or adenomyosis, which make it harder to see the pregnancy and sometimes the diagnosis may be delayed for several days.

When can you see the baby’s heartbeat?

The earliest ultrasound can confirm the presence of heartbeat is two weeks after a missed menstrual period or four weeks after conception. In women who conceive after IVF the heartbeat can be seen four weeks after the day of oocyte collection. Again, in order to avoid coming for the scan too early it is best to delay the attendance until two and a half to three weeks after the missed period or four and a half to five weeks after conception/oocyte collection.

Is it possible to diagnose ectopic pregnancy on the scan?

Experienced operators are able to detect almost all ectopic pregnancies measuring more than a few millimetres in size on ultrasound scan. It is important to emphasize; however, that ectopic pregnancies tend to develop more slowly than intrauterine pregnancies and it often takes them longer to grow to the size which makes them visible on the scan. Most women with positive pregnancy test in whom ultrasound cannot identify a pregnancy have either normal pregnancies which are younger than expected form the date of their last period or they have already suffered a miscarriage. A small proportion of these women; however, may develop small ectopic pregnancies. A blood test is usually arranged in these cases to measure the levels of pregnancy hormones in women’s blood. Based on the result of the blood test we can advise women on the likely outcome of their pregnancy and on the need for further follow up.