The Endocrine Society of Australia

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

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 palpably large goitre or a nodular thyroid. Incidentally discovered thyroid nodules on ultrasound 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, may lead to further unnecessary investigation, unwarranted patient anxiety and increased costs. Imaging may be needed in thyrotoxic patients; when needed, a radionuclide thyroid scan, not an ultrasound, is used to assess the aetiology of the thyrotoxicosis and the possibility of focal autonomy in a thyroid nodule or nodules.

Supporting evidence
  • Ahn HS. Korea's Thyroid-Cancer “Epidemic” — Screening and Overdiagnosis. New England Journal of Medicine 2014;371:1765-7.
  • Brito JP. Thyroid cancer: zealous imaging has increased detection and treatment of low risk tumours. British Medical Journal 2013;347.
  • Bahn CRS. Hyperthyroidism and other causes of thyrotoxicosis: management guidelines of the American Thyroid Association and American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists. Thyroid 2011;21:593-646.
How this list was made How this list was made

The Medical Affairs sub-committee of the Endocrine Society of Australia (ESA) collaborated with the Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP) to compile a list of 44 possible low-value interventions using desktop research.

The list was examined and refined down to 8 interventions: comprising 6 that were deemed sufficiently common or important to warrant consideration and two additional practices identified by the committee. A review of the evidence for these 8 was completed and circulated to the whole ESA membership for feedback via an on-line survey. Based on the results of the survey, which attracted 146 respondents, a top 5 was identified.