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Thyroid Uptake and Scan

(Thyroid Scintiscan; Technetium Thyroid Scan)
  • Definition

    A thyroid uptake and scan is a test that uses a radioactive substance and a scanning tool to evaluate the thyroid gland. The scanner picks up where and how much the radioactive substance was taken up by the thyroid. This helps determine the structure, location, size, and activity of the gland.
  • Reasons for Test

    The scan may be ordered to:
    • Determine the cause of an overactive thyroid—hyperthyroidism
    • Test how well the thyroid is working
    • Determine if a thyroid nodule is functioning (if it is making thyroid hormone)
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  • Possible Complications

    Thyroid scans are associated with very few risks. Tell your doctor if you:
    • Have an allergy to medication or food, including iodine or shellfish
    • Are (or might be) pregnant or breastfeeding—the test could expose the baby to radiation
    • Take any medications on a regular basis—some can interfere with test results
    • If you recently had any CT scans, cardiac catheterizations, or other imaging tests that use contrast dye
  • What to Expect

    Prior to Test
    • You may be asked to avoid certain food (containing iodine) or thyroid medication before the scan. Some can interfere with the results.
    • Jewelry, dentures, and other metallic objects will be removed.
    • You may be asked not to eat or drink anything after midnight.
    • Your doctor may order some tests to measure the amount of thyroid hormone in your blood.
    Description of Test
    You will be given a radioactive substance by mouth. Once the substance has had time to collect in the thyroid, the scan begins. You will lie on your back with your head tilted back. You will be asked to lie very still at certain times. A scanner will take pictures of your thyroid from different angles. The camera is not an x-ray machine. It does not expose you to more radiation. You may need to return to the radiology department after 24 hours for additional pictures.
    After Test
    You will be able to leave after the test is done.
    Because of the very low dose of radioactive substance used, the majority of the radioactive substance will leave your body in 1-2 days. You are not at risk for exposing other people to radiation. You can interact normally with them.
    How Long Will It Take?
    The scan itself takes about half an hour. The radioactive substance needs time to be absorbed before the scan. You may need to wait 4-6 hours if you take the substance by mouth.
    Will It Hurt?
    There is no pain associated with a thyroid scan. There may be times when you find it uncomfortable to lie still with your head tilted backward.
    The pictures of the scan take about an hour to develop. A radiologist will examine them. Based on the results of the test, further studies or treatment will be recommended.
  • Call Your Doctor

    Call your doctor if you experience any unusual pain or discomfort.
    If you think you have an emergency, call for emergency medical services right away.

    American Thyroid Association

    Hormone Health Network—Endocrine Society


    Public Health Agency of Canada

    The Thyroid Foundation of Canada


    Hyperthyroidism. Johns Hopkins University website. Available at:,P00408. Accessed December 14, 2015.

    Hyperthyroidism in adults. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Updated October 21, 2015. Accessed December 14, 2015.

    Thyroid nodule. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Updated September 15, 2015. Accessed December 14, 2015.

    Thyroid nodules. American Thyroid Association website. Available at: Accessed December 14, 2015.

    Thyroid scan and uptake. Radiological Society of North America Radiology Info website. Available at: Updated March 28, 2013. Accessed December 14, 2015.

    Revision Information

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