Can ultrasound detect endometriosis?

What is endometriosis?

Endometriosis is a long-term condition that affects people with a biologically female reproductive system. It occurs when tissue similar to the womb lining grows in places where it’s not meant to, such as the ovaries and fallopian tubes.

This causes a problem because every month as part of the menstrual cycle this tissue behaves as though it were in the womb – thickening and shedding through bleeding. But this tissue can’t leave the body as a period, because it is in the wrong place.

About 1.5 million women and those assigned female at birth are currently living with endometriosis.

You can find out more about the symptoms of endometriosis here.

Can ultrasound detect endometriosis?

Endometriosis is difficult to diagnose, because the symptoms of endometriosis can vary greatly from person to person and are common to many other conditions. There are usually several steps to getting an endometriosis diagnosis and many people face long waiting times.

A pelvic ultrasound scan is a very useful first step to diagnosing endometriosis. It is usually the first test that a doctor will recommend after a physical examination. On an ultrasound scan to diagnose endometriosis the sonographer will look for endometrioma. This is a type of ovarian cyst that can indicate endometriosis.

A pelvic ultrasound scan for endometriosis is best performed transvaginally. This means that the sonographer will ask for your consent to insert an ultrasound probe into your vagina. If you choose not to have a transvaginal scan, the sonographer may be able to complete the scan transabdominally (by placing an ultrasound probe on the skin of your pelvic area) - but results may not be as accurate.

Booking a private pelvic ultrasound scan can help you avoid long waiting times at your GP. Instead of waiting for a referral, you can provide your Ultrasound Direct scan images and detailed diagnostic report to help you get a faster diagnosis. Many private ultrasound providers do not have the expertise or training to effectively perform diagnostic health scans, so make sure you research potential providers before you book.

What happens next?

After a pelvic ultrasound scan, it’s likely that you’ll need more tests to confirm a diagnosis of endometriosis. You may be referred for an MRI scan to generate images that can help your doctor see the full extent of the endometriosis and determine if surgery is required to remove the tissue. Your doctor may also refer you for a laparoscopy. This is a surgical procedure in which a camera is inserted into your abdomen to look directly at the tissue in your reproductive system. A laparoscopy is the most common way to diagnose endometriosis, and is the only way to get a definitive diagnosis of endometriosis.