Thyroid Ultrasound

Thyroid ultrasound imaging test that is used to examine and produce real-time images of the adjacent structures in the neck and the thyroid glands. The thyroid gland is located above the collar bone in the front of the neck.

It is one of the nine endocrine glands in the body that produce and send hormones(thyroid hormone) into the bloodstream and also helps to regulate heartbeat.

It is common for nodules to develop in the thyroid which may or may not be felt on the surface of the skin. Ultrasound can help to diagnose those nodules that cannot be felt. Ultrasound uses sound waves not radiation and can help to detect abnormalities in the Thyroid glands.

Uses of Thyroid Ultrasound

Since ultrasound scan are used to produce real-time images of the internal organs/structure, Thyroid ultrasound can be used to;

  1. Determine if a lump in the neck that may be caused by an abnormality in the Thyroid.
  2. Check for any additional nodules in patients who have been diagnosed of one or more nodules in a physical exam.
  3. Analyze and determine if a thyroid nodule is a benign nodule or if the nodules require a biopsy.
  4. Check if Thyroid nodules have grown substantially over time.
  5. Guide needle biopsies(extracting tissues as samples for laboratory testing).

Who Performs the Thyroid Ultrasound

Thyroid ultrasound is performed by an ultrasound technologist or technician. A diagnostic radiologist or sonographer is a medical professional who is trained to carry out ultrasound scans and interpret ultrasound images.

They specialize in interpreting medical imaging tests including MRI scans, ultrasound, and CT scans.

Procedures of Thyroid Ultrasound

Thyroid ultrasound is performed in a hospital. The procedure of the Thyroid ultrasound takes less than 30 minutes generally. Steps include;

  1. Lying down face up on a table in the ultrasound room which usually has dark or dimly light, to enable easy reading of the ultrasound images on the ultrasound screen.
  2. A pillow may be placed behind your shoulders in order to extend the area under examination. This step is very important for infants because the space between their chin and chest is very small.
  3. A special water-based gel will be applied on the area under examination to reduce friction and help the transducer slide across your skin. It is the transducer that sends and receives sound waves to produce the image on the ultrasound screen.
  4. The technologist will move the transducer back and forth on the area under examination and occasionally press the transducer down while looking at the screen to enable him capture the desired image that will help diagnose your condition.
  5. The water-based gel is then wiped off from your skin.
  6. You may be asked to wait for some time. Then the diagnostic radiologist will check if the imaging was complete.
  7. After an imaging test, the patients are usually asked to go home.

What you may experience during and after a Thyroid ultrasound

During a thyroid ultrasound, you may have to extend your neck for some time to enable the sonographer to examine your Thyroid. This can make you experience minimal discomfort that is temporary.

After the thyroid ultrasound, you will be asked to dress and sit for a while as the result is being reviewed. You may be given the results or asked to return to the hospital in a few days and should be able to resume normal activities after an ultrasound scan.

Benefits of Thyroid Ultrasound

Some known benefits of Thyroid ultrasound are listed below:

  1. It is painless although it may be uncomfortable temporarily.
  2. It is noninvasive which means that there are no injections or needles.
  3. It is used as a tool for guiding minimally invasive procedures such as fluid aspiration and needle biopsy.
  4. It is less expensive and easy to use compared to other imaging methods.
  5. It is widely available compared to other imaging methods and provides great internal details when accessing soft tissue structures.
  6. It is completely safe and it uses sound waves, not radiation.
  7. It provides a more clear picture of soft tissues that did not show up clearly on the x-ray.

Risks/complications of Thyroid Ultrasound

Although standard ultrasound diagnostics do have a known harmful effect on the human body, an interpretation of the ultrasound may lead to other procedures such as biopsy, aspiration, and followups.

Limitation of Thyroid Ultrasound

Though ultrasound scan is painless and has no known harmful effect on the human body, thyroid ultrasound cannot be used to determine the functions of the thyroid glands but can only be used to detect if the thyroid gland is normal, overactive or underactive.