A thyroid ultrasound, or thyroid sonogram, is a minimally invasive diagnostic test that uses sound waves to produce images of the thyroid, a gland at the front of the neck which controls metabolism. Ultrasound can successfully show images of soft tissues that are not highlighted on X-rays. The thyroid ultrasound is commonly performed to evaluate thyroid function or enlargement or to detect masses on the gland itself. It is one of the safest imaging tests available with no associated risks or complications.
Reasons for a Thyroid Ultrasound
The reasons for administration of a thyroid ultrasound are to diagnose dysfunction or suspected abnormalities of the thyroid gland. It may be used to:
- Determine the existence of a goiter, an enlargement of the thyroid gland
- Assess whether a lump has originated on the thyroid gland or elsewhere
- Determine whether a detected mass is growing
- Differentiate between cysts, filled with fluid, and solid masses
- Help determine whether an abnormal growth may be malignant
The Thyroid Ultrasound Procedure
A thyroid ultrasound is normally administered in an ultrasound room of a physician's office or in the radiology or ultrasound department of a hospital. During a thyroid ultrasound, the patient lies down with the neck hyperextended. The ultrasound technician places gel on the patient's neck and rolls a smooth instrument called a transducer over the area. Apart from the possible discomfort of extending the neck more than usual, the procedure is painless.
The transducer generates sound waves that create images of the gland which are projected onto a computer screen. When sound waves make contact with fluid-filled cysts they create different patterns than when they make contact with solid tumors, so the ultrasound procedure is a valuable diagnostic tool.