Thyroid Ultrasound

A thyroid ultrasound is a non-invasive exam that uses high-frequency sound waves to produce images of the thyroid gland in the neck. This exam is commonly used to evaluate abnormalities and bumps on the neck, which are usually found by the patient or by a doctor during an annual physical.

Reasons for a Thyroid Ultrasound

Your doctor may refer you for an ultrasound of the thyroid to learn more about how this gland is functioning. Sometimes it is overactive, underactive, or abnormal in shape or size.

This exam helps investigate symptoms and:

  • Investigate fluid-filled cysts
  • Check abnormal pain, inflammation, or infections
  • Examine nodules to determine if a biopsy is needed
  • Identify the number of nodules (are there more than initially felt during a physical exam?)
  • Monitor the growth of a thyroid nodule

What Happens During My Thyroid Ultrasound?

  • The sonographer may arrange your clothing to expose your neck so ultrasound gel can be applied.
  • We will place a pillow under your neck for support, and your head will be tilted back slightly to stretch your neck.
  • The sonographer will apply a warm, hypoallergenic ultrasound gel and move the transducer (probe) around your neck, gathering images.
  • The sonographer will apply moderate pressure with the probe, which may be momentarily uncomfortable but should not cause pain.
    • Please inform the sonographer of any discomfort.
  • After the sonographer has captured the images, you are free to leave.
  • A radiologist will review the images and send a detailed report to your doctor, usually within one business day.

Orientation

During a thyroid ultrasound, you will be on a bed, on your back, with a pillow beneath your neck.

Cost

If you have an Alberta Health Care card or valid health care card from out of province, there is no cost for a thyroid ultrasound (except in Quebec).

Duration

An ultrasound of the thyroid will last approximately 30 minutes.

Exam Preparation

Being prepared for your thyroid ultrasound helps us take the best possible images for diagnosis. Visit our exam prep page for more instructions specific to thyroid ultrasound.

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