What is a thyroid ultrasound? Why do you need one? And why do you need to be concerned about your thyroid in the first place? If you’ve just learned you have thyroid problems, these are all questions you’re asking. Here’s a little information to get you started.
If you’re undergoing a thyroid ultrasound, it’s probably because you have a growth on your thyroid gland. The ultrasound will help determine exactly what type of growth this is, what kinds of risks it poses and what the best treatment may be.
But first it’s important to know what the thyroid is, how it works, and how it can go wrong in the first place. The thyroid is a small, butterfly-shaped gland located at the base of the neck, in the throat. It’s one of the endocrine glands, a series of glands tasked with regulating the body’s internal systems.
They do this by secreting hormones that travel throughout the body. The thyroid produces three key hormones, one that manages calcium levels in the blood and two others that maintain balance in the body’s energy use, metabolism and protein creation.
Why Thyroid Ultrasound?
A thyroid ultrasound has most likely been ordered because something has gone wrong with the thyroid in a way that can be tracked by an ultrasound machine. These machines use sound waves to produce images of the inside of the human body.
Typically ultrasounds are used to examine growths on the thyroid gland. The procedure can help distinguish between cysts, closed sacs containing fluid and tumours, or abnormal tissue such as nodules, which may or may not be malignant (cancerous).
A normal ultrasound result will indicate that the thyroid gland is normally sized, located and shaped. An abnormal result may show cysts, goitres (enlargement of the gland) or nodules (bumps under the skin that may be symptomatic of tumour growth).
The test itself is very simple and very non-invasive. It’s painless, and it’s usually done by a hospital’s radiology or ultrasound department. The ultrasound technician will have you lay on your back with your neck hyper-extended and will then place a gel on your neck. Next a wand called a transducer will be moved back and forth across your neck.
The process is similar to SONAR: The transducer emits sound waves that enter the body, bounce off the thyroid gland, and return to a computer than turns them into graphic information. It’s the same technology used to check the health of foetuses.
If you have questions or concerns about thyroid problems see your local doctor who will arrange for you to see a thyroid surgeon.
For more information about thyroid imaging click here.