Lymph node mapping is a detailed head and neck ultrasound that evaluates lymph nodes around the thyroid gland and in the neck adjacent to the thyroid gland. The strategic value of ultrasound imaging in both treating and following patients with thyroid cancer has become increasingly appreciated over the past decades. Ultrasound is used to identify suspicious lymph nodes and your thyroid doctor can accurately diagnose and inform your surgeon on how extensive your thyroid surgery needs to be. The key to determining the extent of the appropriate initial surgery as well as the recognition of recurrent cancer is the ultrasound's ability to detect early malignancy in the regional neck lymph nodes. Getting the correct surgery the first time can save you from having to undergo additional surgeries in the future.
If you have a biopsy-proven thyroid cancer or a suspicious thyroid nodule, it is important to undergo lymph node mapping prior to the removal of your thyroid gland (This is endorsed by the American Thyroid Association). Ultrasound results are highly dependent on the person performing the procedure, so getting your lymph node mapping performed by an expert is important. We perform numerous lymph node mapping ultrasounds for Endocrinologist's weekly.
Lymph node mapping is also performed after thyroid surgery to monitor for thyroid cancer recurrence. The most likely place for most thyroid cancers to return is in the lymph nodes in the neck. If you already have thyroid cancer, you should be getting lymph node mappings regularly to monitor for recurrence.