What is In-office Ultrasound?
Ultrasound, also called sonography, is an imaging procedure that employs high-frequency sound waves to generate pictures of structures within your body on a computer screen.
In-office ultrasound is the sonography performed right in your physician’s clinic by a specialist called a ‘sonographer’.
In-office ultrasound is routinely performed on pregnant women to monitor pregnancy (prenatal or fetal ultrasound).
Concept of Ultrasound
An ultrasound is carried out with a hand-held device known as “transducer”. The device, when moved across the body’s surfaces, sends strong sound waves into your body. These waves travel through fluid and soft tissues and bounce back as echoes when they hit a denser surface. The transducer picks up the waves that bounce back and sends them to a computer monitor which displays a visual image.
Types of Fetal Ultrasound
In a gynecological setting, in-office ultrasound is used to create images of the fetus in the mother's uterus. The procedure provides a safe means to evaluate the health of the unborn baby.
The following are the three main types of in-office fetal ultrasound.
- Standard ultrasound:
- Confirms the pregnancy and helps assess the position of the uterus
- Determines the location of the fetus inside or outside of the uterus
- Estimates the gestational age (how far you are into your pregnancy)
- Evaluates the growth and development of the fetus
- Identifies any birth defects, physical abnormalities or congenital anomalies
- Helps understand and monitor the health of the developing fetus
- Checks for the number of fetuses (multiple pregnancies)
- Limited ultrasound:
- Determines the exact position of the fetus in the uterus
- Specialized (3-D) ultrasound:
- Identifies possible pregnancy problems or complications
Your gynecologist will decide on the type of fetal ultrasound needed depending on the requirement of the images.
When is In-office Ultrasound Performed?
Your gynecologist may recommend the fetal ultrasound twice during your pregnancy: first at around 10-12 weeks and then after 20 weeks.
You will be required to drink a few glasses of water 2 hours before the ultrasound, and arrive with a full bladder. You are expected not to pass any urine until the procedure is completed. This will help to keep your bladder full during the ultrasound to generate clear images.
Also, you will be asked to:
- Wear loose clothing or a gown
- Remove jewelry or any metal items
In-office ultrasound can be transabdominal or pelvic (external ultrasound) or transvaginal (internal ultrasound).
- You will lie on a padded table with your clothes loosened and your belly exposed.
- A water-based gel is applied to the surface of your belly and spread over thoroughly.
- The transducer is pressed and glided back and forth over your belly as needed.
- You may be asked to hold your breath or change position to get the best image possible.
- The images captured on the computer monitor are then paused and captured.
Transvaginal (usually done during early pregnancy)
- You will lie on your back on a padded table and undress from the waist down.
- A special transducer is gently inserted into the vagina to view the uterus.
- Better and clearer images are obtained, as the uterus is close to the vagina.
The entire procedure may take 20 to 40 minutes, depending on the type of ultrasound performed. You can get dressed and return to normal activities soon after the ultrasound.
In-office ultrasound is usually painless. However, the device sliding against your skin may cause mild discomfort due to the vibrating movement on your belly.
Advantages of In-office Ultrasound
Ultrasound is usually a safe, non-invasive and easy to perform procedure. In-office ultrasound has additional benefits like:
- No hospital required
- Comfortable environment
- Compassionate care