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Thyroid ultrasound

A thyroid ultrasound is an imaging method used to see the thyroid -- a gland in the neck that regulates metabolism .

Alternative Names

Ultrasound - thyroid; Thyroid sonogram; Thyroid echogram

How the test is performed

Ultrasound is a painless method that uses sound waves to create images of the inside of the body. The test is usually done in the ultrasound or radiology department.

You will lie with your neck extended beyond its usual limit (hyperextended). The ultrasound technician will place a gel onto your neck. Next, the technician will move a wand, called a transducer, over the area.

The transducer gives off sound waves. The sound waves go through the body and bounce off the area being studied (in this case, the thyroid gland). A computer looks at the pattern that the sound waves create when bouncing back, and creates an image. This is similar to SONAR.

How to prepare for the test

No special preparation is necessary for this test.

How the test will feel

You should feel very little discomfort with this test. The gel may be cold.

Why the test is performed

A thyroid ultrasound is usually done when you have a growth on your thyroid gland. The exam can help tell the difference between a sac containing fluid (cyst ) and abnormal tissue that may or may not be cancerous (a tumor ).

Normal Values

The thyroid is of normal size, shape, and position.

What abnormal results mean

Abnormal results may be due to:

  • Cysts
  • Enlargement of the thyroid gland (goiter )
  • Thyroid nodules

Your doctor can use these results and the results of other tests to direct your care.

Additional conditions under which the test may be performed include the following:

What the risks are

There are no documented risks of ultrasound.

Updated: 6/5/2012

Ken Levin, MD, private practice specializing in Radiology and Nuclear Medicine, Allentown, PA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.


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