Is a full bladder still necessary for pelvic ultrasound?

Susan Unwin-Golding, Radiology, Plymouth Hospital NHS Trust, Plymouth

Despite some evidence that it is not necessary, female patients are often asked to arrive with a full bladder for initial trans-abdominal ultrasound views, prior to a trans-vaginal ultrasound. The rationale is to provide a good ultrasound ‘window’ to assess the uterus and ovaries. However, in our centre, the vast majority of patients go on immediately to have a transvaginal ultrasound anyway, during which better views are usually obtained. Therefore, we postulated that asking patients to arrive with a full bladder was unnecessary, and led to delays whilst the patient left the ultrasound room to void.

We reviewed all the images acquired for 20 consecutive patients, to determine whether adequate views were obtained trans-abdominally, and then trans-vaginally.

We also wished to determine, via a patient satisfaction survey, whether patients had any discomfort from the pressure of the ultrasound probe on the abdomen, if they had a full bladder; or whether they were in discomfort in the waiting area, with a feeling of needing to void.

The total time taken to complete the clinical encounter was also recorded, to determine if asking patients to arrive with a full bladder and then sending them out of the ultrasound room to void resulted in significantly longer appointment times.

The study was therefore undertaken at two centres, one which asked patients to arrive with a full bladder via a letter sent out with the appointment time, and one which did not. The results were compared.

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