Thyroid Scan

Thyroid Uptake and Scan

There are two main types of diagnostic thyroid exams offered at Lurie Children’s. One is referred to as a Thyroid Uptake and Scan. This exam measures the function of your child's thyroid gland. It also gives us information about the size, shape and structure of the thyroid. This is most commonly performed in the setting of an over or under-acting thyroid, specifically Grave’s disease.

The exam is performed in three appointments done over the course of 2 days.  In preparation for first part of the exam your child must not have anything to eat or drink for an hour prior to your first appointment time. This includes water and medication. As a reminder, birth assigned females 10 years of age and older will need to provide a urine sample prior to the start of the exam. The physician ordering the exam may also request your child to refrain from taking certain medications. The radiopharmaceutical medication used for this exam is a very specific form and amount of radioactive iodine. This medication is given in pill form. The capsule is gel coated and very similar in size to an extra strength Tylenol. If your child has difficulty swallowing pills, please reach out to your ordering provider or the Nuclear Medicine Department. There are many tools we can use to help coach your child through this necessary part of the exam including a Pill Swallowing Kit or the help of a Child Life Specialist. After the capsule has been swallowed, your child will need to refrain from eating and drinking for an additional hour. After that hour has elapsed there are no more eating or drinking restrictions for your child.

The second part of the exam begins 3-4 hours after the administration of the radiopharmaceutical. This delay allows the thyroid to absorb the medication.   When you return for imaging, your child will be instructed to lay very still on our imaging table for approximately an hour. During this part of the exam, it can be very helpful for the patient to bring their favorite playlist or podcast from home. They can wear headphones or use our Bluetooth speaker to listen. Your child is also free to pick a DVD to watch for the imaging but be advised they will not be able to see the movie at certain times during the exam.  We will also use a Thyroid Uptake Probe to measure the amount of radioactive iodine absorbed by their thyroid. This involves sitting still in a chair for 2 minutes. The Thyroid Uptake Probe looks similar to a telescope.

The final part of the exam begins 24 hours after the radiopharmaceutical administration during the first appointment. For this appointment, a 10-minute picture of their thyroid will be taken laying down on our imaging table followed by the 2 minutes of imaging using the previously mentioned Thyroid Uptake Probe.

Once the scan is complete, the images will be evaluated by a Radiologist. If the scan is satisfactory and no additional images are needed, your child will be free to leave and resume normal activity.

Thyroid Metastatic Survey

Another type of diagnostic thyroid exam offered at Lurie Children’s is called a Thyroid Metastatic Survey. This exam measures the function of your child's thyroid gland in the setting of thyroid cancer.  

The exam is performed in 3 appointments done over the course of 3 days.  This delay allows the body to absorb the radiopharmaceutical. In preparation for first part of the exam, your child must not have anything to eat or drink for an hour prior to your first appointment time. This includes water and medication. As a reminder, birth assigned females 10 years of age and older will need to provide a urine sample prior to the start of the exam. The physician ordering the exam may also request that your child refrain from taking certain medications. In addition to the appointment in nuclear medicine, your child will visit the laboratory approximately two hours prior to your nuclear medicine appointment to have blood labs drawn. Specifically, a TSH lab is needed to ensure levels are elevated prior to the radiopharmaceutical administration.

The medication given to your child for this exam is a very specific form and amount of radioactive iodine. This medication is given in pill form. The capsule is gel coated and very similar in size to an extra strength Tylenol. If your child has difficulty swallowing pills, please reach out to your ordering provider or the Nuclear Medicine Department. There are many tools we can use to help coach your child through this necessary part of the exam including a Pill Swallowing Kit or the help of a Child Life Specialist. After the capsule has been swallowed, your child will need to refrain from eating and drinking for an additional hour.  After that hour has elapsed there are no more eating or drinking restrictions for your child for the remainder of the study.

When you return for the scan on day 2, your child will need to lie still for the images to be diagnostic quality. The scan will take approximately 2 hours.  Dress your child comfortably in clothes that are easily removed and free from metal. To help your child successfully complete the exam, we have a variety of DVDs to choose from. Your child may also bring a favorite movie to watch during the exam.

The necessity of the third appointment will be determined after imaging on day 2. If the radiologist does not think an additional day of imaging is necessary, the appointment will be canceled, and you will not be required to come to the hospital a third day.

Once the scan is complete, the images will be evaluated by a Radiologist. If the scan is satisfactory and no additional images are needed, your child will be free to leave and resume normal activity.