A thyroid ultrasound is an imaging method to see the thyroid, a gland in the neck that regulates metabolism (the many processes that control the rate of activity in cells and tissues).
Ultrasound - thyroid; Thyroid sonogram; Thyroid echogram; Thyroid nodule - ultrasound; Goiter - ultrasound
Ultrasound is a painless method that uses sound waves to create images of the inside of the body. The test is often done in the ultrasound or radiology department. It also can be done in a clinic.
The test is done in this way:
No special preparation is necessary for this test.
You should feel very little discomfort with this test. The gel may be cold.
A thyroid ultrasound is usually done when physical exam shows any of these findings:
Ultrasound is also often used to guide the needle in biopsies of:
A normal result will show that the thyroid has a normal size, shape, and position.
Abnormal results may be due to:
Your health care provider can use these results and the results of other tests to direct your care. Thyroid ultrasounds are becoming better and predicting whether a thyroid nodule is benign or is a cancer. Many thyroid ultrasound reports will now give each nodule a score and discuss the characteristics of the nodule that caused the score. Talk to your provider about the results of any thyroid ultrasound.
There are no documented risks for ultrasound.
Blum M. Thyroid imaging. In: Jameson JL, De Groot LJ, de Kretser DM, et al, eds. Endocrinology: Adult and Pediatric. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 79.
Salvatore D, Cohen R, Kopp PA, Larsen PR. Thyroid pathophysiology and diagnostic evaluation. In: Melmed S, Auchus RJ, Goldfine AB, Koenig RJ, Rosen CJ, eds. Williams Textbook of Endocrinology. 14th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 11.
Strachan MWJ, Newell-Price JDC. Endocrinology. In: Ralston SH, Penman ID, Strachan MWJ, Hobson RP, eds. Davidson's Principles and Practice of Medicine. 23rd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2018:chap 18.
Reviewed By: Sandeep K. Dhaliwal, MD, board-certified in Diabetes, Endocrinology, and Metabolism, Springfield, VA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.