The thyroid: review of imaging features and biopsy techniques with radiologic-pathologic correlation

Radiographics. 2014 Mar-Apr;34(2):276-93. doi: 10.1148/rg.342135067.


Knowledge of the normal and abnormal imaging appearances of the thyroid gland is essential for appropriate identification and diagnosis of thyroid lesions. Thyroid nodules are often detected incidentally at computed tomography, magnetic resonance imaging, and positron emission tomography; however, ultrasonography (US) is the most commonly used imaging modality for characterization of these nodules. US characteristics that increase the likelihood of malignancy in a thyroid nodule include microcalcifications, solid composition, and central vascularity. Nuclear scintigraphy is commonly used for evaluation of physiologic thyroid function and for identification of metabolically active and inactive nodules. When fine-needle aspiration biopsy (FNAB) of a lesion is indicated based on clinical and radiologic features, appropriate US-guided biopsy technique and careful cytologic analysis are crucial for making the diagnosis. FNAB and core biopsy are the two percutaneous techniques used to obtain a specimen, with the latter technique being indicated following nondiagnostic or indeterminate FNAB. Specimen adequacy and diagnostic accuracy vary due to several factors, including location of aspiration and biopsy technique used. The radiologist must have a basic knowledge of thyroid disease, be familiar with specimen processing, and recognize the cytologic and radiologic appearances of thyroid lesions, all of which will facilitate the management of these lesions. Online supplemental material is available for this article.

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • Biopsy, Fine-Needle
  • Diagnostic Imaging
  • Humans
  • Thyroid Diseases / diagnosis*