Subacute granulomatous (de Quervain) thyroiditis: grayscale and color Doppler sonographic characteristics

J Ultrasound Med. 2013 Mar;32(3):505-11. doi: 10.7863/jum.2013.32.3.505.


Objectives: To describe the sonographic characteristics of subacute granulomatous (De Quervain) thyroiditis.

Methods: We retrospectively identified all patients at our institution during the last 11 years who had thyroid sonography with findings suggestive of subacute granulomatous thyroiditis. We then reviewed clinical data and laboratory results to establish the clinical diagnosis. A final diagnosis of subacute granulomatous thyroiditis was made on the basis of clinical symptoms, suppressed thyrotropin, an elevated erythrocyte sedimentation rate, and/or reduced or absent radionuclide uptake while hyperthyroid.

Results: Our study population consisted of 35 patients. Twenty-seven patients (79.4%) met clinical criteria for subacute thyroiditis. Symptoms included neck pain in 26 of 27 patients with subacute thyroiditis. The erythrocyte sedimentation rate ranged from 22 to 101 mm/h. In 21 cases (77.8%), sonography revealed focal, poorly defined, nonovoid areas of decreased echogenicity. Findings were bilateral in 16 patients and unilateral in 5. In the remaining 6, the gland or an entire lobe was diffusely heterogeneous. Color Doppler interrogation was performed in 20 patients. Flow was decreased to the sonographically abnormal areas in 19 (95%) and slightly increased in 1 patient. In all 9 patients who underwent radionuclide scanning, focal defects or large areas of decreased or absent uptake were found during the time of suppressed thyrotropin. Enlarged lymph nodes were noted in 16 patients (59.3%).

Conclusions: The positive predictive value of sonography for diagnosing subacute granulomatous thyroiditis is 79.4%. The most common sonographic appearance is poorly defined regions of decreased echogenicity with decreased vascularity in the affected areas.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Algorithms*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Image Enhancement / methods
  • Image Interpretation, Computer-Assisted / methods*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Thyroiditis, Subacute / diagnostic imaging*
  • Ultrasonography, Doppler, Color / methods*