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About Ultrasound of the Thyroid

Ultrasound imaging, also known as sonography, involves exposing part of the body to high-frequency sound waves to produce images of the inside of the body. The test is noninvasive and helps physicians diagnose and treat medical conditions.

The radiologists at the UPMC Multidisciplinary Thyroid Center (MTC) are experts in using ultrasound to evaluate thyroid nodules.

An ultrasound of the thyroid produces a picture of the thyroid gland and can help doctors diagnose:

  • A nodule (lump) in the thyroid
  • A thyroid gland that is not functioning properly
  • Thyroid cancer

Ultrasound can also show abnormal neck lymph nodes, prior to surgery, to help surgeons determine the extent of the operation.

Because ultrasound provides real-time images, doctors may also use it to guide medical procedures, such as fine needle aspiration (FNA) biopsy.

What to Expect During an Ultrasound of the Thyroid

Wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothing for your ultrasound exam.

Your sonographer (ultrasound technician), may ask you to remove your clothes and jewelry and give you a gown to wear.

For most ultrasound exams of the thyroid, you will lay face-up on an exam table that can be tilted or moved.

The sonographer will:

  • Apply a clear, water-based gel to your neck.
  • Move the transducer (a hand-held device that sends and receives ultrasound signals) to different positions to view the thyroid gland at different angles.

The ultrasound image is:

  • Immediately visible on a nearby video display screen that looks much like a computer or television monitor.
  • Created based on the strength (amplitude), frequency, and time it takes for the sound signal to return from the patient to the transducer, and the type of body structure the sound travels through.

Ultrasound Benefits and Risks


  • Noninvasive, usually painless
  • Does not use ionizing radiation (as used in x-rays)


  • No known harmful effects for standard diagnostic ultrasound

After Your Thyroid Ultrasound

Board-certified radiologists at the MTC interpret your thyroid ultrasound scans.

Any UPMC hospital or facility can access your images at any time, day or night, if you ever need them in the future.