• Thyroid Ultrasound

    What is the thyroid?

    The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland that wraps around the front part of your neck just below your Adam's apple. The thyroid makes hormones that help control your body's metabolism. The hormones produced by the thyroid have an effect on almost every tissue and cell in your body.

    Why should I have a thyroid ultrasound exam?

    There are many reasons for examining the thyroid with ultrasound. The most common reason is to provide more information for your doctor

    • about a mass your doctor felt while examining you;
    • after something unusual was found by other exams, such as a nuclear scan, a CT scan or an MRI exam;
    • about what caused your thyroid gland to get larger;
    • about what caused the pain or swelling in your thyroid gland; or about abnormalities in your thyroid, such as masses or cysts.

    A sonogram might not provide all the information your doctor needs. In those cases, more studies or tests could be needed. These can include blood tests, a biopsy in which your doctor removes a small amount of cells or fluid, or other types of ultrasound examinations.

    Who will perform the examination?

    A sonographer - a professional trained to conduct ultrasound examinations - will perform the exam in most cases. He or she obtains and records a series of pictures. A doctor then reviews the pictures. The doctor might discuss your exam with the sonographer and then give your own doctor an official explanation or interpretation of what was seen on the sonogram. This interpretation may not be available immediately after you have your exam. In some cases, the doctor will also examine you to confirm or resolve uncertain or unclear findings.

    Are there any special preparations for the examination?

    There is no special preparation for this examination. For your convenience, you should wear a top that can be removed easily during the ultrasound examination. The room is usually darkened during the examination to make it easier for the sonographer or doctor to see the pictures on the computer screen. After the examination, you may safely drive home and eat and drink normally.

    Will it hurt?

    There is no pain involved in an ultrasound examination of the thyroid. The transducer is placed on your skin surface after a gel is applied to your neck to provide better contact. The gel can feel cool and could temporarily leave a mark on your clothes, so you might want to wear easily washable clothing. However, the gel usually dries to a white powder that can be brushed off.

    How long will it take?

    The length of time for the examination will depend on the specific reasons your doctor requested it. The reasons will affect how complex the examination needs to be.

    What are the limitations of the examination?

    It might be difficult for a sonographer or doctor to obtain the desired pictures if you have a short or thick neck. Also, if there are multiple nodules or cysts, it can be difficult for the doctor to see each one individually. An ultrasound examination of the thyroid cannot determine the exact cause of a nodule; however, there are characteristics of the image that can help the doctor determine if there is a high chance of cancer (malignant) or a low chance of cancer (benign). Your doctor could recommend further tests, such as an ultrasound-guided biopsy or a fine-needle aspiration.

     

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