Thyroid Center | Patient Experience

The Thyroid Center at Boston Children's Hospital has one of first and largest clinics in the United States devoted exclusively to the care of children with thyroid nodules and thyroid cancer. Our multidisciplinary team has the expertise in thyroid ultrasound, fine needle aspiration, thyroid surgery, nuclear medicine imaging, and radioactive iodine therapy needed to provide comprehensive evaluation and treatment of pediatric thyroid nodules and cancer.

Planning your visit to the Thyroid Nodule Clinic

Appointments in our Thyroid Nodule Clinic can be scheduled by calling 617-355-8226. Plan to arrive 15 minutes before your scheduled visit time. A complete visit lasts approximately 2 hours.

First steps

At check-in, you will be asked to complete a questionnaire about your child’s symptoms and medical history.

Next, you and your child will meet with an Endocrinology nurse, who will review this information and answer any questions you may have about the clinic. In most cases, the nurse will also place a topical anesthetic cream on the front of your child’s neck, which will help to numb the area in case a fine needle aspiration biopsy is recommended. This cream takes about 30 minutes to work, and during this time, you will receive directions to walk to our thyroid ultrasound unit, which is located across the street at Brigham & Women’s Hospital.


In the thyroid ultrasound unit, you and your child will meet a Thyroid Center endocrinologist who will review your child’s medical history and perform a physical examination. One of our expert radiologists will perform a complete ultrasound evaluation of the thyroid gland and neck. Ultrasound is a safe and painless method of imaging, and is the best way to evaluate the size and characteristics of a thyroid nodule.

After reviewing the imaging results with the ultrasound physician, your endocrinologist will discuss the results with you and make recommendations about next steps, including whether a fine-needle aspiration (biopsy) is recommended. Even if a thyroid nodule is found, many thyroid nodules do not require a biopsy.

Fine-needle Aspiration (Biopsy)

If a biopsy of the thyroid nodule is recommended, it will usually be performed on the same day, immediately after the ultrasound. Fine-needle aspiration biopsy is a very safe minor procedure, and the endocrinologist will explain it in detail and obtain your consent before the procedure.

We use topical anesthetic cream followed by a small amount of local anesthetic to numb the area, which avoids the need for sedation or general anesthesia. Once the area is numb, three to six samples of thyroid cells are taken from the nodule with a very thin needle. The ultrasound radiologist provides real-time ultrasound guidance to the endocrinologist taking the samples, which helps obtain the best possible samples and avoid damage to nearby structures. The entire procedure generally takes less than 10 minutes and has very little risk, particularly since general anesthesia is not used.  

After the biopsy, it is common for a patient to experience some soreness of the neck or throat within the first 24-48 hours, which is easily treated with acetaminophen. There is no scar or physical restrictions after the biopsy.

The samples of cells taken during the biopsy are sent for analysis by a cytopathologist, who examines the thyroid cells under a microscope. If a biopsy is performed, your endocrinologist will arrange a follow-up clinic visit to discuss the results of the biopsy and any further recommendations for care.

Laboratory tests

In some cases, the endocrinologist may recommend that blood tests be performed during or after your visit to help determine how the thyroid gland is working.

Second opinions

We welcome patients and families seeking a second opinion about the care of their thyroid nodule or thyroid cancer. If you are seeking a second opinion, we request that you provide the following information once your visit is scheduled:

  • Notes, letters, and reports from any previous providers who have evaluated the thyroid nodule/cancer (including clinic notes and operative reports)
  • Laboratory test results
  • Reports and digital copies of images (on CD or DVD) from any imaging procedures (including ultrasounds, CT scans, MRI scans, PET or other nuclear medicine scans)
  • Pathology reports from any biopsies or surgeries
  • Original pathology (or cytology) slides from any biopsies or surgeries

Providing as much of this information as possible will allow us to perform a comprehensive review of all available information to provide the best possible diagnosis and treatment recommendations for your child.