Pediatric thyroid ultrasound: a radiologist's checklist

Pediatr Radiol. 2020 Apr;50(4):563-574. doi: 10.1007/s00247-019-04602-2. Epub 2020 Mar 12.


Ultrasonography (US) is the imaging method of choice for evaluating the pediatric thyroid gland, complemented by scintigraphy and thyroid function tests, especially when evaluating children with suspected congenital hypothyroidism, goiter, infectious or autoimmune diseases, or neoplasm. Diagnostic considerations in newborns with congenital hypothyroidism mainly include dysgenesis, dyshormonogenesis, transient hypothyroidism and central (hypophyseal) hypothyroidism. The midline of the neck should be scrutinized for thyroid tissue from the floor of the mouth to the thoracic inlet. Cystic and echogenic ultimobranchial remnants should not be misinterpreted as orthotopic thyroid tissue. Diffuse thyroid diseases affect older children; these comprise Hashimoto and Graves diseases and infectious thyroiditis and exhibit features similar to those in adults. It is important to note that the diffuse sclerosing variant of papillary thyroid cancer can complicate thyroiditis and should not be confused with Hashimoto disease. In children with solid nodules the threshold for fine-needle aspiration biopsy or surgery should be lower compared to adults because of a higher likelihood of malignancy compared with adults. Biopsy should be considered in nodules with suspicious ultrasonographic features, even when smaller than 1 cm. Adult classification systems of thyroid nodules, although useful, are not sufficient to safely discriminate the nodules' likelihood of malignancy in children. We describe key sonographic findings and suggest a standard checklist that might be considered while performing and interpreting thyroid US in neonates and children.

Keywords: Child; Congenital hypothyroidism; Gland; Intrathyroid thymus; Nodules; Thyroid; Thyroiditis; Ultrasonography.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Checklist / methods*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Radiologists
  • Thyroid Diseases / diagnostic imaging*
  • Thyroid Gland / diagnostic imaging
  • Ultrasonography / methods*