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What is a Thyroid Scan?

What is a Thyroid Scan?

Thyroid is an endocrine gland, situated in the midline of front of our neck, and functions as a controller of our body metabolism.

Thyroid scan is a kind of nuclear medicine imaging test. Radioactive iodine uptake test (RAIU), also called thyroid uptake, also measures the thyroid function, but doesn’t require imaging.

Nuclear medicine uses minimum amount of a radioactive material for imaging the structure and function of body organs. Thyroid scan is very informative for evaluating thyroid function.

The thyroid scan tells you whether your thyroid gland is overactive (hyperthyroidism) or underactive (hypothyroidism). It can demarcate the hyperactive and underactive areas in the gland.

The scan also helps differentiate between benign (harmless) and malignant (cancerous) growths of thyroid. It picks up these lesions very early in the disease process.

Who Recommends a Thyroid Scan and When?

An endocrinologist, an internist (physician), or an ear-nose-throat (ENT) surgeon may recommend a thyroid scan if he/she finds the neck gland enlarged. He may suspect malfunction (hyper or hypo) of this endocrine gland on observing certain metabolic irregularities. This scan is a valuable tool to confirm these clinical impressions.

Preparing for a Thyroid Scan

Iodine is the most important factor affecting the uptake of the radioactive substance by the gland. Hence, foods, medication, or health supplements with a high iodine content should preferably be stopped before performing the scan. Do not schedule the scan within 6–8 weeks of any other imaging procedure when an iodine contrast medium has been used.
Female patients must inform the hospital and the nuclear physicist if they are pregnant or breastfeeding.

Understanding Thyroid Scan Results

Medical personnel trained in the field of nuclear medicine interprets the results of the thyroid scan.

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