Thyroid ultrasound

What is a thyroid ultrasound?

Thyroid ultrasound is a morphological examination of the thyroid. It is a non-invasive, painless and safe to ionizing radiation test, which is based on ultrasound emitted by an electrical probe. Ultrasound is particularly useful for defining the volume of the gland, to identify any nodes or inflammatory processes. With this technique, the specialist can diagnose certain diseases such as thyroid goitre, thyroiditis, hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism.

thyroid ultrasound


What does a thyroid utrasound consist of?

Thyroid Ultrasound is a painless procedure that uses sound waves to create images of the inside of the body. The test is often done in the radiology department but can also be done in other clinics.

A thyroid ultrasound is done in this way:

  • The patients lies down with their neck on a pillow or other soft support. Their neck is stretched slightly.
  • The ultrasound technician applies a water-based gel on the patients neck to help transmit the sound waves.
  • The technician moves a transducer (wand like object), back and forth on the skin of the neck. The transducer gives off sound waves. The sound waves go through the patients' body and bounce off the area being studied (in this case, the thyroid gland). The pattern of the sound waves is analysed by the specialist.


No other preparation is requited apart from the application of the water-based gel.

Why is a thyroid ultrasound performed?

A thyroid ultrasound is usually done when a physical exam finds:

  • A growth on the thyroid gland, called a thyroid nodule.
  • The thyroid feels irregular or large, (a goiter).
  • Abnormal lymph nodes near the thyroid.

Thyroid ultrasound is also often used to guide the needle in biopsies. These can include bipsies of the:

  • Thyroid gland or Thyroid nodules. In this test a needle draws out a small amount of tissue from the thyroid gland or nodule. This is a test to diagnose thyroid cancer thyroid disease.
  • Lymph nodes in the area of the thyroid.
  • The parathyroid gland.

What do abnormal results mean?

Normal Results

With normal results, the thyroid is positioned normally and has a normal size and shape.

What Abnormal Results Mean

Abnormal results may be:

  • Cysts (nodules filled with fluid)
  • Enlargement of the thyroid gland (goiter)
  • Inflammation of the thyroid (confirmed with a biopsy) or Thyroiditis.
  • Thyroid cancer (confirmed with a a biopsy)

The specialist would then use these results and the results of other tests to direct their care for a patient.


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