Choosing Wisely:

Don’t routinely order a thyroid ultrasound in patients with abnormal thyroid function tests if there is no palpable abnormality of the thyroid gland.

Rationale and Comments: Thyroid ultrasound is used to identify and characterize thyroid nodules, and is not part of the routine evaluation of abnormal thyroid function tests (over- or underactive thyroid function) unless the patient also has a large goiter or a lumpy thyroid. Incidentally discovered thyroid nodules are common. Overzealous use of ultrasound will frequently identify nodules, which are unrelated to the abnormal thyroid function, and may divert the clinical evaluation to assess the nodules, rather than the thyroid dysfunction. Imaging may be needed in thyrotoxic patients; when needed, a thyroid scan, not an ultrasound, is used to assess the etiology of the thyrotoxicosis and the possibility of focal autonomy in a thyroid nodule.
Sponsoring Organizations:
  • The Endocrine Society/American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists
  • Sources:
  • American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists
  • American Thyroid Association guidelines
  • Disciplines:
  • Endocrinologic
  • References: • Bahn RS, Burch HB, Cooper DS, Garber JR, Greenlee MC, Klein I, Laurberg P, McDougall IR, Montori VM, Rivkees SA, Ross DS, Sosa JA, Stan MN; American Thyroid Association; American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists. Hyperthyroidism and other causes of thyrotoxicosis: management guidelines of the American Thyroid Association and American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists. Thyroid. 2011;21:593-646.
    • Garber JR, Cobin RH, Gharib H, Hennessey JV, Klein I, Mechanick JI, Pessah-Pollack R, Singer PA, Woeber KA. Clinical practice guidelines for hypothyroidism in adults: cosponsored by the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists and the American Thyroid Association. Endocr Pract. 2012; Sep 11:1-207.

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