What is a Thyroid Ultrasound?
An ultrasound is a painless procedure that gives us an idea about the structure of our internal organs, and whether there are problems with them. An ultrasound machine uses sound waves to form an image of the organ we are focusing on. Your healthcare provider may decide to order an ultrasound of your thyroid gland for reasons such as:
- to measure the size of your thyroid gland,
- to look at nodules (lumps) felt on examination,
- to monitor the size of previously discovered nodules, and
- as a follow-up of thyroid cancer treatment.
What are the advantages of Ultrasound?
- An ultrasound allows your healthcare provider to see and monitor changes in your thyroid gland that are too small to feel during physical exam.
- An ultrasound is very safe—there is no radiation exposure. In fact, this is the same technology we use to watch babies grow before they are born!
- It can be done quickly at your provider’s office instead of having to go to the hospital.
What should I expect when I come for my Ultrasound?
- You should arrive to your appointment 15 minutes early to fill out any necessary paperwork.
- It is a good idea to wear a shirt that buttons down in front or a loose fitting shirt that does not sit high on your neck.
- Once the provider is ready to see you, you will be escorted to the exam room and asked to lie flat on your back on the exam table.
- The provider will put a pillow under your upper back so that your neck is extended as far as possible—this helps him or her to get the best picture of your thyroid gland.
- Next, the ultrasonographer (that is what we call the person doing the ultrasound) will put a small amount of cool jelly on your neck, and will use something called a transducer to send sound waves through the jelly and into your neck and thyroid. This is completely safe and painless, you won’t even know that it is happening! The transducer measures how fast the sound travels through the different tissues in your body and converts it into a picture that we can see.
- The ultrasonographer may choose to take several pictures of different parts of your thyroid, which means that your exam may take around 30 minutes to complete.
- Once he or she has all the information that she needs, the ultrasonographer will clean the jelly off of your neck and you are done!
After completing the ultrasound, your healthcare provider looks over all of the images that were taken and writes a report. He or she will also look at information from your last exam, any lab work, and previous ultrasounds to help make a recommendation about what further care or testing you may need. It may take up to 1 week after your ultrasound appointment for your provider to come up with a recommendation. He or she may ask that you call a week after your appointment or may ask that you make an office appointment to discuss your results.