What Is a Heterogeneous Thyroid?

A heterogeneous thyroid is a thyroid gland that is not uniform in structure and may indicate a thyroid disorder, explains Health and Nutrition Tips. InnerBody.com notes that the thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland located in the neck. The thyroid gland encircles the larynx and contributes to the Adam’s apple prominence. It produces hormones that regulate the conversion rate of nutrients to energy in the body.

Abnormal tissues such as cystic nodules, adenomas and cancerous tumors appear as heterogeneous structures in thyroid ultrasound imagery. As explained by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, ultrasound technology is widely used in recognizing heterogeneous structural appearances and evaluating thyroid disorders. Heterogeneous ultrasound patterns provide physical imaging that may correlate to underactive or overactive thyroid conditions, helping to guide diagnosis and intervention. Thyroid ultrasound is used in conjunction with other diagnostic tools such as blood tests, thyroid scans and biopsies to reach a conclusive diagnosis for thyroid abnormalities.

Hypothyroidism refers to a low production of thyroid hormone and is often a result of thyroid damage caused by an autoimmune disease, explains WebMD. Hyperthyroidism refers to an overactive thyroid that produces high hormone levels, often caused by Graves disease or an overactive thyroid nodule. Overactive thyroid nodules often appear as enlarged, heterogeneous masses on ultrasound images.