A thyroid scan is a procedure in which your healthcare provider examines your thyroid gland using a chemical called a radioactive tracer. The chemical is detected by an instrument called a scanner. The scan helps your provider see how well the gland is working.
The thyroid gland is a small gland at the lower front of the neck. It makes hormones that control your metabolism. Metabolism is the speed at which your body’s cells do their work. The thyroid gland is critical for maintaining body temperature and controlling heart rate, appetite, and digestive tract function.
This procedure is used to diagnose problems with the thyroid gland. The thyroid scan provides information on how the gland is functioning. Depending on the problem and your condition, you may have other tests, such as a CT scan (a special type of X-ray test) or an ultrasound scan (using sound waves).
Your healthcare provider will give you capsules containing a radioactive chemical (often iodine). You will swallow these capsules 4 to 24 hours before the test. Tell your provider if you are allergic to shellfish or other things that contain iodine. Also, tell your provider if you have had other contrast-dye tests done in the past few months such as a CT scan.
After taking the capsules, you will lie on an examining table while a scanner is held near your neck. The radioactive tracer will be taken up by the thyroid gland as the gland makes thyroid hormone. The scanner measures the amount and distribution of radiation in the thyroid. This information will help your healthcare provider understand how well the thyroid is working. You may have more than one scan done. Your provider may also use a scanning device that produces a picture of the thyroid gland, showing areas where there may be a problem.
Your healthcare provider will give you the test results when the complete report is available. You can go home after the test is completed.
Ask your healthcare provider what other steps you should take and when you should come back for a checkup.
This test is painless and helps your healthcare provider make a more accurate diagnosis.
The amount of radioactivity given in this test is so small that it does not pose a risk.
You could be allergic to the dye. You should ask your healthcare provider how this risk applies to you.
Call your provider right away if you have a skin rash, hives, or shortness of breath after the test.
Call during office hours if: