A thyroid scan is a test used to find problems in the thyroid. A thyroid is a gland found in the neck just below the Adam's apple. The thyroid controls how quickly the body burns energy, makes proteins and how sensitive the body should be to other hormones.
Your child will swallow medicine, and then special pictures will be taken. The medicine is called a radiopharmaceutical (a tiny amount of a radioactive substance in the form of a pill). The pictures will show the medicine in the thyroid.
Before the Scan
Before the test, your physician will discuss a plan to prepare for the exam that may include stopping your child's thyroid medication.
Children 5 years and under may require sedation for their procedure. If sedation is necessary, a nurse or doctor will explain it to you. You will be given certain eating and drinking restrictions necessary to complete the exam. The day of the exam, a parent or guardian needs to be present to sign informed consent for sedation.
If your child is an infant, it is helpful to bring along a bottle of formula or juice with you for after the test. It is also recommended that you bring a pacifier, blanket or special toy to help calm your baby.
For older children, it is helpful to bring a book, toy or DVD to play with while waiting. It is helpful to have another caregiver for your child's siblings. For young children or babies, it is a good idea to bring a stroller.
You should read this explanation and explain to your child what will happen during the test. For young children, use simple words and explain only shortly before the test.
During the Thyroid Scan
A technologist will give the medicine to your child in the form of a pill. Your child may be required to swallow more than one pill.
After the medicine is given, your child will return for pictures the following day. You and your child may also be asked to return for pictures after four hours. You may wait in the waiting area or go for a walk.
After four or 24 hours, you and your child will return to the nuclear medicine area, and the test will continue. They will need to lie still on a soft table while a special camera is used to take pictures from above and below her. Your child may need a safety belt to help lie still. During this time they may watch a DVD.
It will take at least one hour — and sometimes two hours — to take all of the pictures. During this time, the camera will not hurt or touch your child. You will be able to stay with them during the entire test.
It is possible that during the procedure your child may experience some discomfort. Please tell the doctor, nurse or technologist if pain occurs.
After the Scan
The child eliminates the medicine from their body by urinating. You child should drink plenty of fluids and urinate often to help clear it from their body. It should be completely out of their body within 24 hours. As always, you and your child should wash your hands after they urinate or when handling urine-soaked diapers or sheets.
After the test, your child may return to regular daily activities and meals. If your child had sedation medicine, they will be monitored by a nurse in the recovery room until they wake. This amount of time is often unpredictable depending on the amount of sedation medicine given. It is common for children to sleep two hours after the medicine is given.
Results of the test will be available to your child's doctor within 24 hours.
Technology & Scanners
The pictures will be taken by a Siemens ECam. The open gantry design and feet-in imaging helps your child to feel more comfortable and allows her to watch a movie. The camera has two detectors, one which will be above your child and one which will be under your child during the pictures.