Invasive ultrasound versus non-invasive?

Why is an invasive ultrasound more effective than a non-invasive?

Ultrasound uses sound waves to produce images inside the body, making it possible to view structures beneath layers of tissue without using radiation.  Though invasive ultrasound procedures may have several different functions, it most often refers to a transvaginal (internal) ultrasound; while a non-invasive or transabdominal ultrasound procedure is generally performed externally, through the abdomen.

Whether internal or external, ultrasound is used for many things; from detecting abnormalities and analyzing the overall health of the pelvic region, to assessing the wellbeing of reproductive organs and monitoring the health and development of a viable pregnancy.  Ultrasound exams have a wide range of applications, but it is most often associated with its many prenatal applications.

For newly pregnant women, for example, either an internal or external ultrasound may be conducted in order to “date” or age the pregnancy.  This initial procedure is very commonplace during the initial stages of pregnancy and may be administered either internally or externally.  Which type of exam you and your physician choose will likely be determined by several factors, but here are two key reasons why an invasive procedure may result more effective than a non-invasive ultrasound.

Image Quality

A non-invasive ultrasound exam is performed by applying a warm, water-based gel to exposed skin in the lower abdominal region, then gently rubbing a transducer over the test area.  An invasive procedure, on the other hand, is conducted by inserting a specialized transducer through the vagina.  While external or transabdominal ultrasound allows practitioners to view female pelvic organs to great effect, internal or transvaginal ultrasound exams have a greater advantage as they allow for significantly clearer pelvic visualizations.


Non-invasive ultrasound is largely as effective as internal exams; however, in a non-invasive procedure a patient may be required to take several steps prior to the examination.  For example, your doctor may request that you arrive for the exam with a full bladder, as the bladder lifts the intestines out of the way when full, allowing for a much clearer view of the uterus and pelvic floor when performing the ultrasound from the outside.  Additionally, in cases in which the uterus is located deep in the pelvis or the patient is overweight, non-invasive exams have limited visualization and are not as effective as internal procedures.

Bottom line

For most women, internal ultrasound is as painless and comfortable as a non-invasive ultrasound and you can delight in the first images of your baby without the added stress of a full bladder.  Ultimately it is a matter of comfort and convenience, as both procedures are safe, reliable and effective.  Whether invasive or non-invasive, ultrasound examinations can equip you with the knowledge and support you need to help you make important decisions about your health or the health of your baby.

This post was written for by Glenn Josephik. Glenn is an account representative and the marketing coordinator at MedCorp, the industry leader and premier business source for used ultrasound machines


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