Thyroid sonogram

Alternative names
Ultrasound - thyroid; Thyroid ultrasound; Thyroid echogram

Definition
The thyroid is a gland located in the neck that regulates metabolism. Ultrasound is a painless method of examining the thyroid. This test involves high-frequency sound waves that are emitted and received by a transducer (a handheld instrument), and the sound waves penetrate the body. The sound waves are arranged into an image seen on a screen, based on the way they bounce off of the various body structures.

How the test is performed
The test is usually done in the ultrasound or radiology department. You will be lying down with your neck hyperextended (extending the neck beyond its usual limit). Lubricant gel is placed on your neck, and the transducer is passed over the area.

How to prepare for the test

Adults:
No special preparation is necessary for this test.

Infants and children:
The physical and psychological preparation you can provide for this or any test or procedure depends on your child’s age, interests, previous experience, and level of trust. For specific information regarding how you can prepare your child, see the following topics as they correspond to your child’s age:

     
  • Infant test or procedure preparation (birth to 1 year)  
  • Toddler test or procedure preparation (1 to 3 years)  
  • Preschooler test or procedure preparation (3 to 6 years)  
  • Schoolage test or procedure preparation (6 to 12 years)  
  • Adolescent test or procedure preparation (12 to 18 years)

How the test will feel
You should feel very little discomfort with this test. The conducting gel may be cold and your neck may feel stretched.

Why the test is performed
Ultrasound is usually performed on the thyroid to differentiate between a cyst (a sac containing fluid) and a tumor (an abnormal tissue growth that may or may not be cancerous).

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

What abnormal results mean

Abnormal results may include cysts, tumors, goiter (an enlargement of the thyroid gland), and 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:

     
  • Colloid nodular goiter  
  • Medullary carcinoma of thyroid  
  • Multiple endocrine neoplasia (MEN) II  
  • Papillary carcinoma of the thyroid  
  • Thyroid cancer

What the risks are
There are no documented risks of ultrasound.

Johns Hopkins patient information

Last revised: December 8, 2012
by Armen E. Martirosyan, M.D.

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