Nuclear Medicine Thyroid Scan

What is a nuclear medicine thyroid scan?

A nuclear medicine thyroid scan is a type of nuclear medicine study that is used to evaluate thyroid structure and activity within the thyroid. A thyroid scan shows the structure, size, and location of your thyroid and the function of various portions of your gland. This procedure involves two visits to our facility on two separate days.

What to Expect

During your first visit, you may be asked to swallow a small amount of radioactive iodine in a capsule. After about 4 hours, you will return for the measurement of uptake and the first scan. The uptake is the measurement of how much of the radioactive iodine is taken up or absorbed by the thyroid. The uptake procedure takes approximately 5 minutes, as you lie on your back on the imaging table. After the uptake is complete you are ready for the scan. During the scan, several images of your thyroid will be taken. Each image takes five or ten minutes. Then, our nuclear medicine radiologist may examine your gland. We may need to take additional images to look at a certain part of your gland in detail. The procedure will take approximately 1 hour.

The next day you will return to our office for the remainder of the uptake procedures, which will take approximately 5 to 10 minutes.

You are required to lie still during the exam unless prompted to move or change positions. You will feel no pain and minimal discomfort during the nuclear medicine thyroid scan. The radioactive material is quickly released from the body and the radiation dose from this test is similar to most routine x-ray procedures.

Patient Preparation

If you are on thyroid medications or preparations that contain iodine, you will be asked to stop taking these medications. Depending on the type of medication you are taking, we will make sure you have discontinued taking it for the appropriate amount of time before the thyroid scan. This can be up to 6 weeks prior to the scan.