Diagnostic Testing

Thyroid Imaging
Thyroid Biopsy
Thyroid Cancer Imaging
Thyroid Cancer Treatment
Parathyroid Imaging
Adrenal Imaging

Thyroid Imaging

Thyroid ultrasound is considered the primary imaging tool for evaluating the thyroid gland. This examination is performed most commonly when a physician feels an abnormality, such as generalized thyroid enlargement or a focal nodule, or when the patient has complaints of difficulty swallowing or a feeling of fullness in the neck.

Thyroid ultrasound is a painless procedure and uses no radiation. During the procedure, the patient lies on a comfortable table with his or her neck slightly extended. The ultrasound technologist uses a transducer coated with gel to scan over the thyroid gland and obtain a series of standard images. Both lobes are measured, and any nodules that are seen are measured. Color Doppler ultrasound is utilized to help determine the vascularity of the gland as a whole, as well as any focal abnormalities.

The exam takes 15 to 45 minutes to complete, depending on the number of nodules.  The radiologist spends time evaluating the information obtained by the sonographer and compares the findings to any prior examinations. Although ultrasound cannot definitely differentiate benign from cancerous nodules, there are a number of features that the radiologist uses to help determine whether a biopsy is needed. Features of a nodule that increase the likelihood of cancer include irregular shape, a large proportion of solid tissue and not entirely cystic, calcifications within the nodule, and increased vascularity.

Based on these observations, the radiologist then generates a report to the referring clinician. Often, the radiologist will then make recommendations for follow-up imaging or for fine needle aspiration/biopsy.