For women and their partners who experience difficulties conceiving, efficient, effective methods to evaluate fertility status are required. Therapy should be readily available to help conception occur quickly. Ultrasonographic imaging is an effective, easy to use, safe, and readily available noninvasive means to evaluate fertility potential. It has become one of the most useful tools available to assess the causes of infertility and to implement many of the treatments used to ameliorate infertility.
Ultrasound is used by a physician to “see” structures in the female abdomen and pelvis. Ultrasound uses high frequency sound waves much like SONAR machines used in ships for detecting submarines underwater. With ultrasound, high frequency sound waves are emitted by a “probe” (also called a transducer). The sound waves bounce off the organs and tissues in the body and the reflected sound waves are received by the probe and a computer is used to reconstruct the waves into images on the monitor. Just about every other type of infertility ultrasound is done using a vaginal ultrasound probe in which a long, slim, ultrasound probe is inserted into the vagina
The primary use of imaging in infertility is to assist clinicians to diagnose the etiology of a couple’s infertility and to assist in the delivery of safe, effective treatments that will lead to a high probability of conception. It is common to use ultrasonography early in infertility investigations as it has replaced more invasive modes of investigation and it should now be considered a part of standard care for infertility. Cyclic uterine and ovarian changes can be instantly evaluated and abnormalities, such as cysts, tumors, fibroids, endometriomas, hydrosalpinges, and congenital abnormalities can be visualized easily to allow for appropriate therapeutic actions early in the care of the infertile couple.. Antral follicle counts can be assessed at any age to look for a reduction in follicle population, a clinical marker of early perimenopause reflecting a reduction in fertility potential. Conversely, discovery of polycystic ovaries can stimulate investigations to diagnose polycystic ovary syndrome and prompt counseling about lifestyle modifications and risks of ovarian hyperstimulation and multiple ovulation following ovulation therapy. In addition, the viability, number, and location of gestational sacs may be visualized very early in pregnancy following ART. Ultrasonography has become an indispensable tool for clinicians to interpret images quickly and respond with timely, accurate decisions to deliver the most efficacious therapy.
An infertility ultrasound is an important first test for any women experiencing difficulty conceiving. First, an infertility ultrasound will verify that the uterus and both ovaries are present. Ultrasound does not reliably detect the fallopian tubes for this evaluation a hysterosalpinogram is performed. The size, shape and position of the uterus are recorded. Masses within the uterus called fibroids can measured and mapped. The ovaries can also be measured. The size of the ovaries as well as the number of follicles present are an important determinant of a woman’s ovarian reserve.
Most often, ovarian cysts are simply evidence of a growing egg or evidence of recent ovulation. On occasion, however, a cyst may represent an abnormality such as endometriosis.
Finally, although normal fallopian tubes are usually not seen on an infertility ultrasound, a type of abnormal fallopian can be seen. Occasionally, if the distal end of a fallopian tube become blocked, the tube will fill with fluid. This is called a hydrosalpinx. It is important to determine the presence of a hydrosalpinx since the presence of hydrosalpinges will indicate not only blocked fallopian tubes but also reduce the success rate of treatments such as IVF.
The most common treatments used for infertility employ the use of fertility medications . These medications stimulate the development of eggs in the ovaries. The eggs grow inside of the follicles. The follicles fill with fluid and enlarge while the egg is developing. The size and number of these developing follicles can be accurately determined with infertility ultrasound. In this way, the physician can determine the appropriate time to either trigger ovulation or perform an IVF egg retrieval.
Infertility ultrasound is also used to monitor the growth and development of the uterine lining. while most of the uterus is composed of muscle, the innermost layer which surround the uterine cavity is made of glandular tissue. Under the influence of hormones produced from the ovaries, the uterine lining will grow and thicken. The thickness of the uterine lining can be measured and patterns of appearance can be seen.