A prostate ultrasound is essentially a sonogram that is conducted on the prostate. As with any type of ultrasound procedure, the goal is to use sound waves to obtain clear images of internal organs found in a particular area of the body. In the case of the prostate, this type of treatment can help reveal any irregularities in the shape of the prostate as well as reveal if an enlarged prostate is present.
In order to conduct a prostate ultrasound, a small probe is inserted into the anus. As the sound waves begin to move through the wall of the rectum, images of the prostate begin to appear. Using this type of diagnostic imaging makes it possible to quickly determine if some abnormality in the size or shape of the prostate exists. Unlike in decades past, there is no need to subject the patient to X-rays or an invasive surgical procedure to gather data about the current status of the prostate.
Using a prostate ultrasound to diagnose the condition of the prostate and possibly uncover the origin of symptoms the patient is exhibiting has several benefits. First, the imaging provides real time information. There is no need to wait for test results to come back or for X-rays to be developed. The attending physician can not only observe the size and shape of the prostate; it is also possible to see how the prostate is functioning as well.
Second, a prostate ultrasound is much more comfortable than older methods of examining and diagnosing issues with the organ. The probe is small enough to position without pain and often will not even stretch the sphincter muscles to the point that the patient feels he is about to become incontinent. From this perspective, the exam is more comfortable from both a physical and a psychological standpoint.
In addition to quickly detecting problems with the shape and size of the prostate, the examination can also make it easy for the physician to identify the presence of nodules that could indicate the presence of cancer. Observing the prostate in real-time can also help the physician diagnose infertility issues related to the function of the organ.
Should the prostate ultrasound reveal any mass that requires a biopsy, there is a good chance that a sample can be harvested using a needle biopsy procedure. The ultrasound can be used to guide the needle to the appropriate location and collect sample tissue that can be tested in a lab.
At present, there are no known side effects to having a prostate ultrasound. However, men who have undergone to remove the end portion of the bowel or rectum are usually not considered good candidates for this type of exam. This is because placement of the ultrasound equipment at just the right location in the rectum is essential for obtaining images of the prostate at different angles.