Experts Advocate the Use of “Ultrasound First” for the Study of the Female Pelvis

Experts Advocate the Use of “Ultrasound First” for the Study of the Female Pelvis

In a new paper published in the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology, a group of well-known obstetricians and gynecologists argue that even today with all the new imaging technologies, ultrasound is still the most informative, safe, and cost-effective approach for the study of the female pelvis.

The paper written by Dr. Beryl R. Benacerraf, Clinical Professor in Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Reproductive Biology and Radiology at Harvard Medical School, and Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and her colleagues states that, in light of the current evidence, the ultrasound image normally can substitute or even be better than many other more expensive imaging techniques.

Ultrasound technology has advanced significantly in recent years. The images captured from ultrasound are made by measuring the reflections (echoes) of sound waves sent by the transducer with a frequency to high for humans to hear in the pelvic tissues and organs. These echoes are recorded and displayed as an image to the operator. New ultrasound scanners are capable of 3-dimensional volume images, real-time evaluation, and study of blood flow with Doppler.

The 3-D volume acquisitions can nowadays be used to study the female pelvis much like CT and MRI. Images delivered ore comparable to those of MRI and probably better than CT, but without the radiation exposure. Sonography can also be enhanced with Doppler measurements, which employ the Doppler effect to assess blood flow moving towards or away from the probe, and its velocity.

As ultrasound exams are performed in real-time, the operator can perform it while doing a physical examination. This ability, in turn, can turn the exam into a more effective diagnostic tool, especially for endometriosis, which is usually associated with pelvic adhesions and can be readily diagnosed with ultrasound.

As a result, the American Institute of Ultrasound in Medicine has launched the “Ultrasound First” initiative in 2o12, which emphasizes ultrasound as the first examination modality for the female pelvis. CT scan usage has tripled since 1993 and an estimated 29,000 future cancers can be associated with the harmful radiation of this technique. Although there is a need for better education of healthcare practitioners, the use of ultrasound as a first-line diagnostic approach can substitute other imaging modalities for a safer alternative.