Thyroid ultrasound uses high-frequency sound waves to produce images of the thyroid gland, typically to evaluate lumps or nodules found during a routine physical. This is a safe and painless way to visualize the thyroid gland in order to:
- Analyze the appearance of a thyroid nodule to determine if it’s benign or requires a biopsy
- Search for additional nodules
- Evaluate whether a nodule has grown over time
- Check nearby lymph nodes; if enlarged, this could indicate the spread of thyroid cancer
Unlike X-rays, ultrasound examinations do not expose patients to ionizing radiation. Also, because ultrasound images are captured in real-time, ultrasound is used to guide procedures such as fine needle aspiration, in which a sample of cells from a nodule is extracted for laboratory testing.