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Thyroid Uptake and Scan

(Thyroid Scintiscan; Technetium Thyroid Scan)

Definition

A thyroid uptake and scan is a test that uses a radioactive substance and a scanning tool to evaluate the thyroid gland. The scanner picks up where and how much the radioactive substance was taken up by the thyroid. This helps determine the structure, location, size, and activity of the gland.

Reasons for Test    TOP

The scan may be ordered to:

  • Determine the cause of an overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism)
  • Test how well the thyroid is working
  • Determine if a thyroid nodule is functioning (if it is making thyroid hormone)

Thyroid

Goiter
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

Possible Complications    TOP

Thyroid scans are associated with very few risks. Tell your doctor if you:

  • Have an allergy to medication or food (including iodine or shellfish)
  • Are (or might be) pregnant or breastfeeding—the test could expose the baby to radiation
  • Take any medications on a regular basis—some can interfere with test results
  • If you recently had any CAT scans, cardiac catheterizations, or other imaging tests that use contrast dye

What to Expect    TOP

Prior to Test

  • You may be asked to avoid certain food (containing iodine) or thyroid medication before the scan. Some can interfere with the results.
  • Jewelry, dentures, and other metallic objects will be removed.
  • You may be asked not to eat or drink anything after midnight.
  • Your doctor may order some tests to measure the amount of thyroid hormone in your blood.

Description of Test

The procedure is done by a trained technician in the radiology department of a hospital. You will be given a radioactive substance by mouth. Once the substance has had time to collect in the thyroid, the scan begins. You will lie on your back with your head tilted back. You will be asked to lie very still at certain times. A scanner will take pictures of your thyroid from different angles. The camera is not an x-ray machine. It does not expose you to more radiation. You may need to return to the radiology department after 24 hours for additional pictures.

After Test    TOP

You will be able to leave after the test is done.

Because of the very low dose of radioactive substance used, the majority of the radioactive substance will leave your body within a day or 2. You are not at risk for exposing other people to radiation. You can interact normally with them.

How Long Will It Take?    TOP

The scan itself takes about half an hour. The radioactive substance needs time to be absorbed before the scan. You may need to wait 4-6 hours if you take the substance by mouth.

Will It Hurt?    TOP

There is no pain associated with a thyroid scan. There may be times when you find it uncomfortable to lie still with your head tilted backward.

Results    TOP

The pictures of the scan take about an hour to develop. A radiologist will examine them. Based on the results of the test, further studies or treatment will be recommended.

Call Your Doctor    TOP

Call your doctor if you experience any unusual pain or discomfort.

In case of an emergency, call for emergency medical services right away.

RESOURCES:

American Thyroid Association, Inc.
http://www.thyroid.org
Hormone Health Network
http://www.hormone.org

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

Public Health Agency of Canada
http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca
The Thyroid Foundation of Canada
http://www.thyroid.ca

References:

Hyperthyroidism and Graves' disease. Johns Hopkins University website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Accessed December 16, 2014.
Thyroid scan. Harvard Medical School Family Health Guide website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Accessed August 2005.
Thyroid nodule. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Updated November 23, 2014. Accessed December 16, 2014.
Thyroid nodules. American Thyroid Association website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Accessed December 16, 2014.
Thyroid scan and uptake. RadiologyInfo.org website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Updated March 28, 2013. Accessed December 16, 2014.
Last reviewed December 2014 by Kim Carmichael, MD
Last Updated: 1/13/2014