Palpation of Thyroid Gland

Definition: Palpation of the thyroid gland to evaluate the presence of nodules or enlargement.

Test procedure: First observe from the front and sides. Then palpate the thyroid by standing behind the patient. Note any nodes, symmetrical or non-symmetrical enlargement. Then ask the patient to take a sip of water and to hold it into their mouth for a short time. Gently palpate the thyroid whilst they swallow the water. Feel the upward movement of the thyroid gland on swallowing. The same technique can be repeated this time observing the thyroid during swallowing. Examine the regional lymph nodes if indicated.

Test findings: The thyroid may be uniformly enlarged as in goitre or there may be one sided enlargement. Note the presence of any hard or soft nodules. If present refer the patient for ultrasound and blood investigations.

Considerations: Palpation of the thyroid from the front or from the back is a matter of preference of the practitioner. Visualisation and palpation of the thyroid gland is not considered a very reliable examination.