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  • Writer's pictureDr Ankita Mishra

Can you have pain during the ultrasound procedure?

Ultrasound is an imaging modality that uses sound waves of different frequencies to create a picture of the human organs. It is also often called a Sonogram. Ultrasound or Sonogram is now a popular non-invasive preferred diagnostic imaging modality which means there is no surgical procedure involved to perform an ultrasound.

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How does an Ultrasound Work?

An Ultrasound probe or a Transducer is used which emits high-frequency soundwaves. These waves are not audible. The waves then go inside the body and are reflected back from different organs and parts of the body. The transducer which emits the sound waves also detects the reflected waves (echoes). These reflected waves are turned into moving objects which are recorded on a monitor and provide a real-time picture of the internal organs.

What are the different types of Ultrasound commonly performed?

Most of the ultrasounds are done externally, outside the body such as an abdominal ultrasound. There are many more advanced and newer ultrasound techniques that may be used for detailed and precise imaging if required.

Commonly performed Ultrasounds include-

  • Abdominal ultrasound: It is used to examine the kidney, liver, gallbladder, Spleen and other others present inside the tummy to diagnose a wide range of diseases like Liver Cyst, Spleen hemorrhage, etc. It helps to detect enlarged organs and can also be used to assist specific invasive procedures like needle biopsy and draining ascites fluid from the abdomen.

  • Pelvic ultrasound: The pelvis of humans contains the uterus, ovaries in females and prostate in males, and urinary bladder in both the sex. Pelvic ultrasound is usually performed to detect any abnormalities in any of the above-mentioned organs and is commonly performed when a patient comes with symptoms of pelvic pain, abnormal bleeding, urinary problems, etc.

This can further be divided into:

Trans-vaginal Ultrasound

In this, a small probe is inserted into the vagina. Usually done in females after a regular abdominal ultrasound when more detailed images of the uterus, fallopian tubes, or ovaries are required.

Trans-rectal Ultrasound

  • Breast ultrasound: Usually done to screen for breast cancer in women with dense breast tissue and when women come with symptoms of breast pain, nipple discharge, or lump in the breast.

  • Pregnancy ultrasound: Done in pregnant females to assess the status of growth of the baby and also detect other uterine and placental conditions.

  • Doppler ultrasound: These are special types of ultrasound that can detect blood flow and its direction. It is done in the vein or artery diseases like varicose veins, thrombosis, etc.

  • 3-D Ultrasound: Visualization of width, height, and depth of the organs is done

  • 4-D Ultrasound: Movement of the organs can be recorded

  • Fetal echocardiography: To check for fetal heart defects

Is Ultrasound Painful?

Before the ultrasound Procedure, you may be advised to have a full bladder to get a better picture of internal organs. During the procedure, you lie down and the doctor/ technician will apply a water-based gel on your belly and then place the transducer onto your belly which is moved to capture black and white images onto the Ultrasound screen. They might ask you to hold your breath or move to one side to get a better picture. Once the necessary images are captured, the gel is wiped off and you can empty your bladder.

The only thing that you will feel during the ultrasound procedure is the movement of the transducer over your skin and the temperature of the gel. And there is absolutely no pain during this procedure.

Is Transvaginal and Transrectal Ultrasound Painful?

Procedures like Transvaginal and Transrectal Ultrasound (Internal Ultrasound) where a probe is inserted inside the body orifice sound very scary and might produce a slight discomfort but are not painful. It is advised to take deep breaths to reduce discomfort and apprehension. The probes used in such Ultrasounds are very small, almost similar to the size of a tampon, and are usually inserted with lots of lubrication to minimize the discomfort. You will only feel some pressure in the vagina or rectum as the probe is moved to take images from different angles.

Talk to your sonographer or doctor if you feel uncomfortable during the procedure.



  1. Jamie Eske, Beth Sissons ; What to know about transvaginal ultrasounds, 2021, MedicalNewsToday [Link]

  2. What Is a Pelvic Ultrasound? [WebMD]

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