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Diagnosis of thyroid disease by means of tests other than blood tests

Although in many cases blood tests provide sufficient information for the diagnosis of thyroid disease, sometimes more or other tests are necessary. This page contains links to information about the most common tests that are performed in addition to, or instead of, blood tests.

Thyroid ultrasound

A thyroid ultrasound is usually done in case of goitre (swollen thyroid), or to check for thyroid nodules.

Radioactive iodine uptake (RAIU) test

Alternative name: thyroid uptake test

A radioactive iodine uptake test is performed to determine a patient’s thyroid function, particularly for the diagnosis of hyperthyroidism. It measures how much radioactive iodine is taken up by the thyroid gland in a certain time period. Unlike the thyroid scan (see below), RAIU does not involve imaging.

Thyroid scan

Alternative names: nuclear thyroid scan, thyroid scintigraphy, thyroid pertechnetate scan

The thyroid scan is similar to the radioactive iodine uptake test. It is a type of nuclear medicine imaging that is used to determine the size, shape and position of the thyroid gland. A thyroid scan is usually done to evaluate a goitre or thyroid nodules; sometimes to diagnose hypothyroidism (incl Hashimoto’s and post-partum thyroiditis) and hyperthyroidism; and it can also help identify areas of the gland that may have cancer.

Combined information about RAIU and thyroid scan:

Fine needle aspiration (FNA)

Alternative name: thyroid biopsy

Fine needle aspiration is performed to diagnose thyroid disease or thyroid cancer. Examination of thyroid tissue obtained by means of FNA helps determine whether thyroid nodules are benign (non-cancerous) or malignant (cancerous).


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