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3 Most Common Indications for Thyroid Ultrasound Examination

With technological advancement, thyroid ultrasound has become a very common and economical examination to find out any issues inside your neck. Ever wondered when and why your doctor might want to order a thyroid ultrasound for you?

Most Common Indications (reasons) for a Thyroid Ultrasound Examination

Palpable Neck Mass

Thyroid masses are common entities. In fact, some autopsy data have found thyroid nodules in up to 50% of the general population without known thyroid disease. While the vast majority of thyroid nodules are clinically insignificant benign growths, studies report the possibility of cancer in about 5% of all thyroid nodules. Of which, nodules >2cm hold a higher risk of cancer. As a result, any nodules that are large enough to be palpated (touched or felt) by your doctor during a physical examination may need a neck ultrasound for further characterization.

Cold Nodule

A cold nodule on a nuclear medicine study is a region in the thyroid gland that is nonfunctioning (non-hormone producing) or hypofunctioning (producing less thyroid hormone), hence not taking up radioisotope on a nuclear study.

All cysts (fluid-filled lesion) and malignancies generally do not take up radioisotope, so an ultrasound may be performed to differentiate a solid lesion (tissue-filled lesion) from a cystic lesion.

Thyroid Function Test (TFT)

Your thyroid gland is regulated by the pituitary gland in your brain. The pituitary gland secretes thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH, aka. Thyrotropin) to activate the production of thyroid hormones: Calcitonin, Thyroxine (T4), and Triiodothyronine (T3).

TFT can measure levels of TSH and thyroid hormones within your bloodstream to indicate the presence of hypothyroidism (Underproduction of thyroid hormone) or hyperthyroidism (Overproduction of thyroid hormone) which may cause nodular growths in your thyroid gland.

During your ultrasound, surrounding lymph nodes will also be examined to rule out neck masses originating from the lymph nodes. Don’t forget, your physician should always be your go-to person for any health-related concerns and questions. Having trouble finding one? Check out our list of highly experienced thyroid specialists today!

Kamran SC et al. Thyroid nodule size and prediction of cancer. J Clin Endocrinol Metab 2013;98:564-70. Epub December 28, 2012; doi: 10.1210/jc.2012-2968.

Popoveniuc, G., & Jonklaas, J. (2012). Thyroid Nodules. Medical Clinics of North America, 96(2), 329-349. doi:10.1016/j.mcna.2012.02.002

Sanders, R. C. (2016). Clinical sonography: A practical guide. Philadelphia: Wolters Kluwer.

Yeung MJ, Serpell JW. Management of the solitary thyroid nodule. Oncologist. 2008 Feb;13(2):105-12. [PubMed: 18305054]

Zamora, E. (2020, August 10). Thyroid Nodule. Retrieved December 30, 2020, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK535422/

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