If you have recently begun the journey to identify what’s causing your abnormal bleeding, your doctor will probably order some tests. The type of tests he or she orders will vary depending on your symptoms.
Undergoing tests can be scary, especially if you haven’t spent much time in doctor’s offices or hospitals before now. Understanding different tests for abnormal bleeding can help ease some of your fear. Knowing what to expect and why you are undergoing the test can be helpful in alleviating anxiety.
MRI: Magnetic Resonance Imaging
An MRI is perhaps the scariest test of all, mostly because of the daunting size of the MRI machine. The MRI machine itself is really a giant magnet. It uses a magnetic field and radio waves to make pictures of your organs and body tissues.
The magnet reacts with hydrogen ions (water) in your body to create tiny signals that can create images of the cross-sections of your body. These images are 3-D, so they can give your surgeon an accurate view of what’s happening inside your body. MRIs can reveal fibroids and other tumors inside your uterus or ovaries that can’t be visualized any other way. An MRI should be painless although some people find the noise of the machine and the time spent lying in the machine to be annoying.
A hysterosonogram is a sonogram that uses saline to make it easier to see inside your uterus and pelvis. The test will be done by a radiologist and sonographer. You will have a catheter (small tube) inserted into your uterus. Then, the radiologist will insert some sterile saline (salt water) into your uterus.
The sonographer will conduct a transvaginal ultrasound using a small wand that is inserted into your vagina. It might be a little uncomfortable but it shouldn’t be painful. The saline in your uterus will make it easier for your doctor to see any fibroids, polyps, tumors or other issues.
Hysterosalpingography is an x-ray that uses a dye to see your uterus and fallopian tubes. This test might be used to investigate causes of infertility or heavy bleeding. It can show your doctor if there is anything blocking your fallopian tubes and if your uterus is a normal size. The dye is injected into your body so that your doctor can see how it travels through your pelvic organs.
Hysteroscopy is used to diagnose or treat problems that affect your uterus, like abnormal bleeding, skipping periods, heavy periods, bleeding in between periods or bleeding after menopause. Your surgeon will insert a speculum into your vagina (you may be familiar with this metal instrument – it is the one used during a pap test). Then the hysteroscope is inserted and guided gently through your cervix into your uterus. Either carbon dioxide or saline solution will be put into your uterus (through the hysteroscope) to inflate your uterus so that your surgeon can see things more clearly.
If an abnormal condition like fibroids is detected during this procedure, small instruments can be inserted through the tube in order to treat the identified condition in a procedure that’s called a dilation and curettage or D&C.
- American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. (2011, August). Hysterosalpingography. Retrieved from http://www.acog.org/Patients/FAQs/Hysterosalpingography
- American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. (2011, October). Hysteroscopy. Retrieved from http://www.acog.org/Patients/FAQs/Hysteroscopy
- Mayo Clinic Staff. (2015). MRI Why it’s done. Retrieved from http://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/mri/basics/why-its-done/prc-20012903
- UW Medicine. (2015). Ultrasound: Hysterosonogram Exam. Retrieved from http://www.uwmedicine.org/health-library/Pages/hysterosonogram-ultrasound.aspx