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Thyroid Gland: Anatomy

The thyroid gland is one of the largest endocrine glands Endocrine glands Ductless glands that secrete hormones directly into the blood circulation. These hormones influence the metabolism and other functions of cells in the body. Glandular Epithelium: Histology in the human body. The thyroid gland is a highly vascular, brownish-red gland located in the visceral compartment of the anterior region of the neck Neck The part of a human or animal body connecting the head to the rest of the body. Peritonsillar Abscess, spanning the regions between the C5 and T1 vertebrae and encircling the anterolateral trachea Trachea The trachea is a tubular structure that forms part of the lower respiratory tract. The trachea is continuous superiorly with the larynx and inferiorly becomes the bronchial tree within the lungs. The trachea consists of a support frame of semicircular, or C-shaped, rings made out of hyaline cartilage and reinforced by collagenous connective tissue. Trachea: Anatomy. The left and right lobes of the thyroid gland are connected by a central isthmus Isthmus Uterus, Cervix, and Fallopian Tubes: Anatomy. Important processes in metabolism, growth, cardiac Cardiac Total Anomalous Pulmonary Venous Return (TAPVR) function, and calcium Calcium A basic element found in nearly all tissues. It is a member of the alkaline earth family of metals with the atomic symbol ca, atomic number 20, and atomic weight 40. Calcium is the most abundant mineral in the body and combines with phosphorus to form calcium phosphate in the bones and teeth. It is essential for the normal functioning of nerves and muscles and plays a role in blood coagulation (as factor IV) and in many enzymatic processes. Electrolytes homeostasis Homeostasis The processes whereby the internal environment of an organism tends to remain balanced and stable. Cell Injury and Death are regulated by the thyroid hormones Thyroid hormones The 2 primary thyroid hormones are triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4). These hormones are synthesized and secreted by the thyroid, and they are responsible for stimulating metabolism in most cells of the body. Their secretion is regulated primarily by thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH), which is produced by the pituitary gland. Thyroid Hormones ( thyroxine Thyroxine The major hormone derived from the thyroid gland. Thyroxine is synthesized via the iodination of tyrosines (monoiodotyrosine) and the coupling of iodotyrosines (diiodotyrosine) in the thyroglobulin. Thyroxine is released from thyroglobulin by proteolysis and secreted into the blood. Thyroid Hormones and triiodothyronine Triiodothyronine A T3 thyroid hormone normally synthesized and secreted by the thyroid gland in much smaller quantities than thyroxine (T4). Most T3 is derived from peripheral monodeiodination of T4 at the 5' position of the outer ring of the iodothyronine nucleus. The hormone finally delivered and used by the tissues is mainly t3. Thyroid Hormones) and calcitonin Calcitonin A peptide hormone that lowers calcium concentration in the blood. In humans, it is released by thyroid cells and acts to decrease the formation and absorptive activity of osteoclasts. Its role in regulating plasma calcium is much greater in children and in certain diseases than in normal adults. Other Antiresorptive Drugs.

Last updated: Mar 9, 2022

Editorial responsibility: Stanley Oiseth, Lindsay Jones, Evelin Maza

Development

Embryologic origins

  • Originates from the thyroid diverticulum Diverticulum A pouch or sac opening from the colon. Diverticular Disease
  • Develops during the 3rd to 4th gestational week
  • Develops from endoderm Endoderm The inner of the three germ layers of an embryo. Gastrulation and Neurulation that lines the pharyngeal arches Pharyngeal arches The branchial arches, also known as pharyngeal or visceral arches, are embryonic structures seen in the development of vertebrates that serve as precursors for many structures of the face, neck, and head. These arches are composed of a central core of mesoderm, which is covered externally by ectoderm and internally by endoderm. Branchial Apparatus and Aortic Arches
  • Composed of:
    • 1 medial thyroid anlage 
    • 2 lateral thyroid anlagen

Medial thyroid anlage

  • Single midline structure
  • Makes up the follicular cells in the thyroid gland
  • Arises from the endoderm Endoderm The inner of the three germ layers of an embryo. Gastrulation and Neurulation between the 1st and 2nd pharyngeal pouches Pharyngeal pouches Branchial Apparatus and Aortic Arches at a point later known as the foramen cecum Cecum The blind sac or outpouching area of the large intestine that is below the entrance of the small intestine. It has a worm-like extension, the vermiform appendix. Colon, Cecum, and Appendix: Anatomy
  • Endoderm Endoderm The inner of the three germ layers of an embryo. Gastrulation and Neurulation enlarges and forms the thyroid diverticulum Diverticulum A pouch or sac opening from the colon. Diverticular Disease.
  • Thyroid diverticulum Diverticulum A pouch or sac opening from the colon. Diverticular Disease migrates downward, deep into the neck Neck The part of a human or animal body connecting the head to the rest of the body. Peritonsillar Abscess, forming the thyroglossal duct.
  • Bifurcates to form the right and left lobes
  • Fuses with the lateral thyroid anlagen, forming the thyroid gland
  • Thyroglossal duct:
    • Typically obliterated and reabsorbed
    • May result in a pyramidal thyroid lobe extending up the neck Neck The part of a human or animal body connecting the head to the rest of the body. Peritonsillar Abscess
    • Fluid-filled thyroglossal duct cysts Cysts Any fluid-filled closed cavity or sac that is lined by an epithelium. Cysts can be of normal, abnormal, non-neoplastic, or neoplastic tissues. Fibrocystic Change may form if the duct fails to fully regress.
Development of the thyroid diverticulum

Thyroid diverticulum Diverticulum A pouch or sac opening from the colon. Diverticular Disease formation and migration

Image by Lecturio.

Lateral thyroid anlage

Thyroid gland development and migration of c cells from the ultimobranchial bodies

Thyroid gland development and migration of C cells C cells Calcium Hemostasis and Bone Metabolism from the ultimobranchial bodies

Image by Lecturio.

Gross Anatomy

Characteristics

  • Brown-reddish in color
  • H- or butterfly-shaped structure
  • Nodular
  • Approximate size:
    • Dimensions: approximately 4.5 cm x 1.5 cm x 1 cm 
    • Weight: approximately 10–20 grams 
  • Regions:
    • Right and left lobes
    • Isthmus Isthmus Uterus, Cervix, and Fallopian Tubes: Anatomy: connects the right and left lobes
    • Pyramidal lobe: variable Variable Variables represent information about something that can change. The design of the measurement scales, or of the methods for obtaining information, will determine the data gathered and the characteristics of that data. As a result, a variable can be qualitative or quantitative, and may be further classified into subgroups. Types of Variables, often absent, extends from the isthmus Isthmus Uterus, Cervix, and Fallopian Tubes: Anatomy toward the hyoid bone Bone Bone is a compact type of hardened connective tissue composed of bone cells, membranes, an extracellular mineralized matrix, and central bone marrow. The 2 primary types of bone are compact and spongy. Bones: Structure and Types
  • Surrounded by the pretracheal fascia Fascia Layers of connective tissue of variable thickness. The superficial fascia is found immediately below the skin; the deep fascia invests muscles, nerves, and other organs. Cellulitis:
    • With the esophagus Esophagus The esophagus is a muscular tube-shaped organ of around 25 centimeters in length that connects the pharynx to the stomach. The organ extends from approximately the 6th cervical vertebra to the 11th thoracic vertebra and can be divided grossly into 3 parts: the cervical part, the thoracic part, and the abdominal part. Esophagus: Anatomy, trachea Trachea The trachea is a tubular structure that forms part of the lower respiratory tract. The trachea is continuous superiorly with the larynx and inferiorly becomes the bronchial tree within the lungs. The trachea consists of a support frame of semicircular, or C-shaped, rings made out of hyaline cartilage and reinforced by collagenous connective tissue. Trachea: Anatomy, and pharynx Pharynx The pharynx is a component of the digestive system that lies posterior to the nasal cavity, oral cavity, and larynx. The pharynx can be divided into the oropharynx, nasopharynx, and laryngopharynx. Pharyngeal muscles play an integral role in vital processes such as breathing, swallowing, and speaking. Pharynx: Anatomy
    • Attached firmly to the laryngoskeleton 
  • 2 parathyroid Parathyroid The parathyroid glands are 2 pairs of small endocrine glands found in close proximity to the thyroid gland. The superior parathyroid glands are lodged within the parenchyma of the upper poles of the right and left thyroid lobes; the inferior parathyroid glands are close to the inferior tips or poles of the lobes. Parathyroid Glands: Anatomy glands are associated with the posterior aspect of each lobe (4 parathyroid Parathyroid The parathyroid glands are 2 pairs of small endocrine glands found in close proximity to the thyroid gland. The superior parathyroid glands are lodged within the parenchyma of the upper poles of the right and left thyroid lobes; the inferior parathyroid glands are close to the inferior tips or poles of the lobes. Parathyroid Glands: Anatomy glands in total).
(a) anterior and (b) posterior views of the thyroid gland

Anterior (left) and posterior (right) views of the thyroid gland

Image by Lecturio.

Location

  • Anteriorly between the C5 and T1 vertebrae
  • Immediately inferior to the larynx Larynx The larynx, also commonly called the voice box, is a cylindrical space located in the neck at the level of the C3-C6 vertebrae. The major structures forming the framework of the larynx are the thyroid cartilage, cricoid cartilage, and epiglottis. The larynx serves to produce sound (phonation), conducts air to the trachea, and prevents large molecules from reaching the lungs. Larynx: Anatomy
  • Encircles the anterolateral trachea Trachea The trachea is a tubular structure that forms part of the lower respiratory tract. The trachea is continuous superiorly with the larynx and inferiorly becomes the bronchial tree within the lungs. The trachea consists of a support frame of semicircular, or C-shaped, rings made out of hyaline cartilage and reinforced by collagenous connective tissue. Trachea: Anatomy
Thyroid in relation to trachea

The thyroid gland and its location in relation to the trachea Trachea The trachea is a tubular structure that forms part of the lower respiratory tract. The trachea is continuous superiorly with the larynx and inferiorly becomes the bronchial tree within the lungs. The trachea consists of a support frame of semicircular, or C-shaped, rings made out of hyaline cartilage and reinforced by collagenous connective tissue. Trachea: Anatomy

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Borders, attachments, and associated anatomy

  • Superior to the isthmus Isthmus Uterus, Cervix, and Fallopian Tubes: Anatomy: cricoid cartilage Cartilage Cartilage is a type of connective tissue derived from embryonic mesenchyme that is responsible for structural support, resilience, and the smoothness of physical actions. Perichondrium (connective tissue membrane surrounding cartilage) compensates for the absence of vasculature in cartilage by providing nutrition and support. Cartilage: Histology
  • Anterior:
  • Posterior:
    • Parathyroid Parathyroid The parathyroid glands are 2 pairs of small endocrine glands found in close proximity to the thyroid gland. The superior parathyroid glands are lodged within the parenchyma of the upper poles of the right and left thyroid lobes; the inferior parathyroid glands are close to the inferior tips or poles of the lobes. Parathyroid Glands: Anatomy glands
    • Posteromedial:
      • Trachea Trachea The trachea is a tubular structure that forms part of the lower respiratory tract. The trachea is continuous superiorly with the larynx and inferiorly becomes the bronchial tree within the lungs. The trachea consists of a support frame of semicircular, or C-shaped, rings made out of hyaline cartilage and reinforced by collagenous connective tissue. Trachea: Anatomy
      • Esophagus Esophagus The esophagus is a muscular tube-shaped organ of around 25 centimeters in length that connects the pharynx to the stomach. The organ extends from approximately the 6th cervical vertebra to the 11th thoracic vertebra and can be divided grossly into 3 parts: the cervical part, the thoracic part, and the abdominal part. Esophagus: Anatomy
    • Posteroinferior to the left lobe: thoracic duct Thoracic Duct The largest lymphatic vessel that passes through the chest and drains into the subclavian vein. Lymphatic Drainage System: Anatomy
  • Lateral: carotid sheath
  • Ligament attachments:
    • Anterior suspensory ligament Suspensory ligament Ovaries: Anatomy: attaches the medial superior aspect of the thyroid to the cricoid cartilage Cartilage Cartilage is a type of connective tissue derived from embryonic mesenchyme that is responsible for structural support, resilience, and the smoothness of physical actions. Perichondrium (connective tissue membrane surrounding cartilage) compensates for the absence of vasculature in cartilage by providing nutrition and support. Cartilage: Histology and thyroid cartilage Cartilage Cartilage is a type of connective tissue derived from embryonic mesenchyme that is responsible for structural support, resilience, and the smoothness of physical actions. Perichondrium (connective tissue membrane surrounding cartilage) compensates for the absence of vasculature in cartilage by providing nutrition and support. Cartilage: Histology
    • Posterior suspensory ligament Suspensory ligament Ovaries: Anatomy (Berry ligament): attaches the posteromedial thyroid to the cricoid cartilage Cartilage Cartilage is a type of connective tissue derived from embryonic mesenchyme that is responsible for structural support, resilience, and the smoothness of physical actions. Perichondrium (connective tissue membrane surrounding cartilage) compensates for the absence of vasculature in cartilage by providing nutrition and support. Cartilage: Histology, 1st and 2nd tracheal rings
  • Nearby nerves (can be injured during thyroidectomy Thyroidectomy Surgical removal of the thyroid gland. Goiter):
    • Superior laryngeal nerve:
      • Innervates the cricothyroid Cricothyroid Larynx: Anatomy muscles of the larynx Larynx The larynx, also commonly called the voice box, is a cylindrical space located in the neck at the level of the C3-C6 vertebrae. The major structures forming the framework of the larynx are the thyroid cartilage, cricoid cartilage, and epiglottis. The larynx serves to produce sound (phonation), conducts air to the trachea, and prevents large molecules from reaching the lungs. Larynx: Anatomy
      • Travels with the superior thyroid artery until approximately 1 cm from the gland
    • Recurrent laryngeal nerve:
      • Innervates all intrinsic muscles of the larynx Larynx The larynx, also commonly called the voice box, is a cylindrical space located in the neck at the level of the C3-C6 vertebrae. The major structures forming the framework of the larynx are the thyroid cartilage, cricoid cartilage, and epiglottis. The larynx serves to produce sound (phonation), conducts air to the trachea, and prevents large molecules from reaching the lungs. Larynx: Anatomy except the cricothyroid Cricothyroid Larynx: Anatomy muscle
      • Located in the tracheoesophageal groove Tracheoesophageal groove Development of the Respiratory System

Cross-section of the neck displaying the lobules and isthmus of the thyroid gland

Cross-section of the neck Neck The part of a human or animal body connecting the head to the rest of the body. Peritonsillar Abscess displaying the lobules Lobules Breasts: Anatomy and isthmus Isthmus Uterus, Cervix, and Fallopian Tubes: Anatomy of the thyroid gland

Image by Lecturio.

Microscopic Anatomy and Function

Thyroid follicles

Thyroid follicles are the structural and functional units of the thyroid glands. Thyroid follicles are composed of a simple epithelial layer that encloses a colloid-filled cavity.

  • Follicular epithelial cells:
    • Presence of receptors Receptors Receptors are proteins located either on the surface of or within a cell that can bind to signaling molecules known as ligands (e.g., hormones) and cause some type of response within the cell. Receptors for thyroid-stimulating hormone Thyroid-stimulating hormone A glycoprotein hormone secreted by the adenohypophysis. Thyrotropin stimulates thyroid gland by increasing the iodide transport, synthesis and release of thyroid hormones (thyroxine and triiodothyronine). Thyroid Hormones (TSH)
    • Production of thyroid hormones Thyroid hormones The 2 primary thyroid hormones are triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4). These hormones are synthesized and secreted by the thyroid, and they are responsible for stimulating metabolism in most cells of the body. Their secretion is regulated primarily by thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH), which is produced by the pituitary gland. Thyroid Hormones:
      • Triiodothyronine Triiodothyronine A T3 thyroid hormone normally synthesized and secreted by the thyroid gland in much smaller quantities than thyroxine (T4). Most T3 is derived from peripheral monodeiodination of T4 at the 5′ position of the outer ring of the iodothyronine nucleus. The hormone finally delivered and used by the tissues is mainly t3. Thyroid Hormones ( T3 T3 A T3 thyroid hormone normally synthesized and secreted by the thyroid gland in much smaller quantities than thyroxine (T4). Most T3 is derived from peripheral monodeiodination of T4 at the 5′ position of the outer ring of the iodothyronine nucleus. The hormone finally delivered and used by the tissues is mainly t3. Thyroid Hormones)
      • Thyroxine Thyroxine The major hormone derived from the thyroid gland. Thyroxine is synthesized via the iodination of tyrosines (monoiodotyrosine) and the coupling of iodotyrosines (diiodotyrosine) in the thyroglobulin. Thyroxine is released from thyroglobulin by proteolysis and secreted into the blood. Thyroid Hormones ( T4 T4 The major hormone derived from the thyroid gland. Thyroxine is synthesized via the iodination of tyrosines (monoiodotyrosine) and the coupling of iodotyrosines (diiodotyrosine) in the thyroglobulin. Thyroxine is released from thyroglobulin by proteolysis and secreted into the blood. Thyroxine is peripherally deiodinated to form triiodothyronine which exerts a broad spectrum of stimulatory effects on cell metabolism. Thyroid Hormones)
    • Production of colloid Colloid Colloid solutions include large proteins or cells that do not readily cross capillary membranes. They remain in the ecf and do not distribute into the icf (similar to crystalloids). Intravenous Fluids
  • Colloid Colloid Colloid solutions include large proteins or cells that do not readily cross capillary membranes. They remain in the ecf and do not distribute into the icf (similar to crystalloids). Intravenous Fluids:
    • Produced by the follicular epithelial cells
    • Contains iodo-thyroglobulin, the precursor of thyroid globulin
    • Stains pink on H&E stains
  • Functions of thyroid hormones Thyroid hormones The 2 primary thyroid hormones are triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4). These hormones are synthesized and secreted by the thyroid, and they are responsible for stimulating metabolism in most cells of the body. Their secretion is regulated primarily by thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH), which is produced by the pituitary gland. Thyroid Hormones:
    • To promote tissue oxygen consumption
    • To increase catecholamine production
    • To promote:
      • Cellular catabolic pathways
      • Heat production Heat Production Fever
      • Energy availability: glycolysis Glycolysis Glycolysis is a central metabolic pathway responsible for the breakdown of glucose and plays a vital role in generating free energy for the cell and metabolites for further oxidative degradation. Glucose primarily becomes available in the blood as a result of glycogen breakdown or from its synthesis from noncarbohydrate precursors (gluconeogenesis) and is imported into cells by specific transport proteins. Glycolysis, glycogenolysis Glycogenolysis The release of glucose from glycogen by glycogen phosphorylase (phosphorolysis). The released glucose-1-phosphate is then converted to glucose-6-phosphate by phosphoglucomutase before entering glycolysis. Glycogenolysis is stimulated by glucagon or epinephrine via the activation of phosphorylase kinase. Glycogen Metabolism, fatty acid oxidation, Krebs cycle Krebs cycle The citric acid cycle, also known as the tricarboxylic acid (TCA) cycle or the krebs cycle, is a cyclic set of reactions that occurs in the mitochondrial matrix. The TCA cycle is the continuation of any metabolic pathway that produces pyruvate, which is converted into its main substrate, acetyl-CoA. Citric Acid Cycle, and protein synthesis Synthesis Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR)
    • To inhibit glycogen synthesis Synthesis Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR), gluconeogenesis Gluconeogenesis Gluconeogenesis is the process of making glucose from noncarbohydrate precursors. This metabolic pathway is more than just a reversal of glycolysis. Gluconeogenesis provides the body with glucose not obtained from food, such as during a fasting period. The production of glucose is critical for organs and cells that cannot use fat for fuel. Gluconeogenesis, and fat deposition
    • To help regulate long bone Bone Bone is a compact type of hardened connective tissue composed of bone cells, membranes, an extracellular mineralized matrix, and central bone marrow. The 2 primary types of bone are compact and spongy. Bones: Structure and Types growth and neural maturation
Histologic structure of the thyroid gland

Histologic structure of the thyroid gland

Image by Lecturio.

C cells C cells Calcium Hemostasis and Bone Metabolism

Also known as clear, light, or parafollicular cells.

  • Pale-staining cells
  • Have calcium-sensing receptors Receptors Receptors are proteins located either on the surface of or within a cell that can bind to signaling molecules known as ligands (e.g., hormones) and cause some type of response within the cell. Receptors
  • Secrete calcitonin Calcitonin A peptide hormone that lowers calcium concentration in the blood. In humans, it is released by thyroid cells and acts to decrease the formation and absorptive activity of osteoclasts. Its role in regulating plasma calcium is much greater in children and in certain diseases than in normal adults. Other Antiresorptive Drugs
  • Function of calcitonin Calcitonin A peptide hormone that lowers calcium concentration in the blood. In humans, it is released by thyroid cells and acts to decrease the formation and absorptive activity of osteoclasts. Its role in regulating plasma calcium is much greater in children and in certain diseases than in normal adults. Other Antiresorptive Drugs: ↓ serum calcium Calcium A basic element found in nearly all tissues. It is a member of the alkaline earth family of metals with the atomic symbol ca, atomic number 20, and atomic weight 40. Calcium is the most abundant mineral in the body and combines with phosphorus to form calcium phosphate in the bones and teeth. It is essential for the normal functioning of nerves and muscles and plays a role in blood coagulation (as factor IV) and in many enzymatic processes. Electrolytes levels
    • Inhibits osteoclast activity and bone Bone Bone is a compact type of hardened connective tissue composed of bone cells, membranes, an extracellular mineralized matrix, and central bone marrow. The 2 primary types of bone are compact and spongy. Bones: Structure and Types resorption
    • Inhibits parathyroid Parathyroid The parathyroid glands are 2 pairs of small endocrine glands found in close proximity to the thyroid gland. The superior parathyroid glands are lodged within the parenchyma of the upper poles of the right and left thyroid lobes; the inferior parathyroid glands are close to the inferior tips or poles of the lobes. Parathyroid Glands: Anatomy hormone and vitamin D Vitamin D A vitamin that includes both cholecalciferols and ergocalciferols, which have the common effect of preventing or curing rickets in animals. It can also be viewed as a hormone since it can be formed in skin by action of ultraviolet rays upon the precursors, 7-dehydrocholesterol and ergosterol, and acts on vitamin D receptors to regulate calcium in opposition to parathyroid hormone. Fat-soluble Vitamins and their Deficiencies
Non-neoplastic thyroid epithelium

Non-neoplastic thyroid epithelium Epithelium The epithelium is a complex of specialized cellular organizations arranged into sheets and lining cavities and covering the surfaces of the body. The cells exhibit polarity, having an apical and a basal pole. Structures important for the epithelial integrity and function involve the basement membrane, the semipermeable sheet on which the cells rest, and interdigitations, as well as cellular junctions. Surface Epithelium: Histology

Image: “Non-neoplastic thyroid epithelium Epithelium The epithelium is a complex of specialized cellular organizations arranged into sheets and lining cavities and covering the surfaces of the body. The cells exhibit polarity, having an apical and a basal pole. Structures important for the epithelial integrity and function involve the basement membrane, the semipermeable sheet on which the cells rest, and interdigitations, as well as cellular junctions. Surface Epithelium: Histology” by Department of Immunoendocrinology, Chair of Endocrinology, Medical University of Lodz, Lodz, Poland. License: CC BY 4.0

Related videos

Neurovasculature

Blood supply

Multiple anastomoses are present, both ipsilaterally and contralaterally.

  • Superior thyroid artery:
    • Supplies the upper part of the thyroid
    • Originates as the 1st branch from the external carotid artery External carotid artery Branch of the common carotid artery which supplies the exterior of the head, the face, and the greater part of the neck. Carotid Arterial System: Anatomy
    • Penetrates the thyroid gland on its anterior side
  • Inferior thyroid artery:
    • Supplies the lower half of the thyroid
    • Originates from the thyrocervical trunk (a branch off the subclavian artery)
    • Penetrates the thyroid gland on its posterior side
  • Thyroid ima artery:
    • Supplies the isthmus Isthmus Uterus, Cervix, and Fallopian Tubes: Anatomy and the lower part of the thyroid
    • Variable Variable Variables represent information about something that can change. The design of the measurement scales, or of the methods for obtaining information, will determine the data gathered and the characteristics of that data. As a result, a variable can be qualitative or quantitative, and may be further classified into subgroups. Types of Variables origins; may be from the brachiocephalic trunk, right common carotid, subclavian, or others

Blood drainage

  • Superior and middle thyroid veins Veins Veins are tubular collections of cells, which transport deoxygenated blood and waste from the capillary beds back to the heart. Veins are classified into 3 types: small veins/venules, medium veins, and large veins. Each type contains 3 primary layers: tunica intima, tunica media, and tunica adventitia. Veins: Histology internal jugular vein Internal jugular vein Parapharyngeal Abscess
  • Inferior thyroid veins Veins Veins are tubular collections of cells, which transport deoxygenated blood and waste from the capillary beds back to the heart. Veins are classified into 3 types: small veins/venules, medium veins, and large veins. Each type contains 3 primary layers: tunica intima, tunica media, and tunica adventitia. Veins: Histology → brachiocephalic vein
Blood supply of the thyroid

Blood supply to the thyroid gland

Image by BioDigital, edited by Lecturio

Lymphatic drainage

The thyroid gland drains into multiple different lymph nodes Lymph Nodes They are oval or bean shaped bodies (1 – 30 mm in diameter) located along the lymphatic system. Lymphatic Drainage System: Anatomy including:

  • Periglandular nodes
  • Prelaryngeal, pretracheal, and paratracheal nodes along the recurrent laryngeal nerve
  • Mediastinal nodes

Innervation

The thyroid gland is primarily innervated by the ANS ANS The ans is a component of the peripheral nervous system that uses both afferent (sensory) and efferent (effector) neurons, which control the functioning of the internal organs and involuntary processes via connections with the CNS. The ans consists of the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. Autonomic Nervous System: Anatomy.

  • Sympathetic innervation:
    • Superior, middle, and inferior cervical sympathetic ganglia
    • Activation may precipitate hyperthyroidism Hyperthyroidism Hypersecretion of thyroid hormones from the thyroid gland. Elevated levels of thyroid hormones increase basal metabolic rate. Thyrotoxicosis and Hyperthyroidism.
  • Parasympathetic innervation:
    • Fibers from the vagus nerve Vagus nerve The 10th cranial nerve. The vagus is a mixed nerve which contains somatic afferents (from skin in back of the ear and the external auditory meatus), visceral afferents (from the pharynx, larynx, thorax, and abdomen), parasympathetic efferents (to the thorax and abdomen), and efferents to striated muscle (of the larynx and pharynx). Pharynx: Anatomy
    • Activation may precipitate hypothyroidism Hypothyroidism Hypothyroidism is a condition characterized by a deficiency of thyroid hormones. Iodine deficiency is the most common cause worldwide, but Hashimoto’s disease (autoimmune thyroiditis) is the leading cause in non-iodine-deficient regions. Hypothyroidism.
Innervation of the thyroid

Innervation of the thyroid gland

Image by BioDigital, edited by Lecturio

Clinical Relevance

High levels of thyroid hormone

  • Hyperthyroidism Hyperthyroidism Hypersecretion of thyroid hormones from the thyroid gland. Elevated levels of thyroid hormones increase basal metabolic rate. Thyrotoxicosis and Hyperthyroidism: an excess of triiodothyronine Triiodothyronine A T3 thyroid hormone normally synthesized and secreted by the thyroid gland in much smaller quantities than thyroxine (T4). Most T3 is derived from peripheral monodeiodination of T4 at the 5′ position of the outer ring of the iodothyronine nucleus. The hormone finally delivered and used by the tissues is mainly t3. Thyroid Hormones ( T3 T3 A T3 thyroid hormone normally synthesized and secreted by the thyroid gland in much smaller quantities than thyroxine (T4). Most T3 is derived from peripheral monodeiodination of T4 at the 5′ position of the outer ring of the iodothyronine nucleus. The hormone finally delivered and used by the tissues is mainly t3. Thyroid Hormones) and thyroxine Thyroxine The major hormone derived from the thyroid gland. Thyroxine is synthesized via the iodination of tyrosines (monoiodotyrosine) and the coupling of iodotyrosines (diiodotyrosine) in the thyroglobulin. Thyroxine is released from thyroglobulin by proteolysis and secreted into the blood. Thyroid Hormones ( T4 T4 The major hormone derived from the thyroid gland. Thyroxine is synthesized via the iodination of tyrosines (monoiodotyrosine) and the coupling of iodotyrosines (diiodotyrosine) in the thyroglobulin. Thyroxine is released from thyroglobulin by proteolysis and secreted into the blood. Thyroxine is peripherally deiodinated to form triiodothyronine which exerts a broad spectrum of stimulatory effects on cell metabolism. Thyroid Hormones). Clinical features of hyperthyroidism Hyperthyroidism Hypersecretion of thyroid hormones from the thyroid gland. Elevated levels of thyroid hormones increase basal metabolic rate. Thyrotoxicosis and Hyperthyroidism are mostly due to the body’s increased metabolic rate. Common findings include tachycardia Tachycardia Abnormally rapid heartbeat, usually with a heart rate above 100 beats per minute for adults. Tachycardia accompanied by disturbance in the cardiac depolarization (cardiac arrhythmia) is called tachyarrhythmia. Sepsis in Children, difficulty sleeping, and weight loss Weight loss Decrease in existing body weight. Bariatric Surgery. Hyperthyroidism Hyperthyroidism Hypersecretion of thyroid hormones from the thyroid gland. Elevated levels of thyroid hormones increase basal metabolic rate. Thyrotoxicosis and Hyperthyroidism is diagnosed by determining TSH and free T4 T4 The major hormone derived from the thyroid gland. Thyroxine is synthesized via the iodination of tyrosines (monoiodotyrosine) and the coupling of iodotyrosines (diiodotyrosine) in the thyroglobulin. Thyroxine is released from thyroglobulin by proteolysis and secreted into the blood. Thyroxine is peripherally deiodinated to form triiodothyronine which exerts a broad spectrum of stimulatory effects on cell metabolism. Thyroid Hormones and T3 T3 A T3 thyroid hormone normally synthesized and secreted by the thyroid gland in much smaller quantities than thyroxine (T4). Most T3 is derived from peripheral monodeiodination of T4 at the 5′ position of the outer ring of the iodothyronine nucleus. The hormone finally delivered and used by the tissues is mainly t3. Thyroid Hormones levels. Typically, TSH levels will be low due to feedback inhibition on the pituitary gland Pituitary gland The pituitary gland, also known as the hypophysis, is considered the “master endocrine gland” because it releases hormones that regulate the activity of multiple major endocrine organs in the body. The gland sits on the sella turcica, just below the hypothalamus, which is the primary regulator of the pituitary gland. Pituitary Gland: Anatomy resulting from elevated T4 T4 The major hormone derived from the thyroid gland. Thyroxine is synthesized via the iodination of tyrosines (monoiodotyrosine) and the coupling of iodotyrosines (diiodotyrosine) in the thyroglobulin. Thyroxine is released from thyroglobulin by proteolysis and secreted into the blood. Thyroxine is peripherally deiodinated to form triiodothyronine which exerts a broad spectrum of stimulatory effects on cell metabolism. Thyroid Hormones and T3 T3 A T3 thyroid hormone normally synthesized and secreted by the thyroid gland in much smaller quantities than thyroxine (T4). Most T3 is derived from peripheral monodeiodination of T4 at the 5′ position of the outer ring of the iodothyronine nucleus. The hormone finally delivered and used by the tissues is mainly t3. Thyroid Hormones levels.
  • Graves’ disease: the most common cause of hyperthyroidism Hyperthyroidism Hypersecretion of thyroid hormones from the thyroid gland. Elevated levels of thyroid hormones increase basal metabolic rate. Thyrotoxicosis and Hyperthyroidism. Graves’ disease is an autoimmune disorder Autoimmune Disorder Septic Arthritis characterized by a type II hypersensitivity reaction Type II hypersensitivity reaction Type II hypersensitivity, also known as antibody-mediated cytotoxic hypersensitivity, is caused by immunoglobulin G (IgG) and IgM antibodies directed against antigens on cells or extracellular materials. The reaction leads to cytotoxic processes involving antibodies and the complement system. Type II Hypersensitivity Reaction, in which antibodies Antibodies Immunoglobulins (Igs), also known as antibodies, are glycoprotein molecules produced by plasma cells that act in immune responses by recognizing and binding particular antigens. The various Ig classes are IgG (the most abundant), IgM, IgE, IgD, and IgA, which differ in their biologic features, structure, target specificity, and distribution. Immunoglobulins: Types and Functions stimulate the thyroid gland by binding to the TSH receptors Receptors Receptors are proteins located either on the surface of or within a cell that can bind to signaling molecules known as ligands (e.g., hormones) and cause some type of response within the cell. Receptors.

Deficiency of thyroid hormone

  • Hypothyroidism Hypothyroidism Hypothyroidism is a condition characterized by a deficiency of thyroid hormones. Iodine deficiency is the most common cause worldwide, but Hashimoto’s disease (autoimmune thyroiditis) is the leading cause in non-iodine-deficient regions. Hypothyroidism: a deficiency of T3 T3 A T3 thyroid hormone normally synthesized and secreted by the thyroid gland in much smaller quantities than thyroxine (T4). Most T3 is derived from peripheral monodeiodination of T4 at the 5′ position of the outer ring of the iodothyronine nucleus. The hormone finally delivered and used by the tissues is mainly t3. Thyroid Hormones and T4 T4 The major hormone derived from the thyroid gland. Thyroxine is synthesized via the iodination of tyrosines (monoiodotyrosine) and the coupling of iodotyrosines (diiodotyrosine) in the thyroglobulin. Thyroxine is released from thyroglobulin by proteolysis and secreted into the blood. Thyroxine is peripherally deiodinated to form triiodothyronine which exerts a broad spectrum of stimulatory effects on cell metabolism. Thyroid Hormones. Clinical features of hypothyroidism Hypothyroidism Hypothyroidism is a condition characterized by a deficiency of thyroid hormones. Iodine deficiency is the most common cause worldwide, but Hashimoto’s disease (autoimmune thyroiditis) is the leading cause in non-iodine-deficient regions. Hypothyroidism are primarily due to the accumulation of matrix substances and a decreased metabolic rate. Common symptoms include dry skin Skin The skin, also referred to as the integumentary system, is the largest organ of the body. The skin is primarily composed of the epidermis (outer layer) and dermis (deep layer). The epidermis is primarily composed of keratinocytes that undergo rapid turnover, while the dermis contains dense layers of connective tissue. Skin: Structure and Functions, fatigue Fatigue The state of weariness following a period of exertion, mental or physical, characterized by a decreased capacity for work and reduced efficiency to respond to stimuli. Fibromyalgia, weight gain, and constipation Constipation Constipation is common and may be due to a variety of causes. Constipation is generally defined as bowel movement frequency < 3 times per week. Patients who are constipated often strain to pass hard stools. The condition is classified as primary (also known as idiopathic or functional constipation) or secondary, and as acute or chronic. Constipation.
  • Hashimoto thyroiditis Thyroiditis Thyroiditis is a catchall term used to describe a variety of conditions that have inflammation of the thyroid gland in common. It includes pathologies that cause an acute illness with severe thyroid pain (e.g., subacute thyroiditis and infectious thyroiditis) as well as conditions in which there is no clinically evident inflammation and the manifestations primarily reflect thyroid dysfunction or a goiter (e.g., painless thyroiditis and fibrous Riedel’s thyroiditis). Thyroiditis: the most common cause of hypothyroidism Hypothyroidism Hypothyroidism is a condition characterized by a deficiency of thyroid hormones. Iodine deficiency is the most common cause worldwide, but Hashimoto’s disease (autoimmune thyroiditis) is the leading cause in non-iodine-deficient regions. Hypothyroidism in iodine-sufficient regions. Hashimoto thyroiditis Thyroiditis Thyroiditis is a catchall term used to describe a variety of conditions that have inflammation of the thyroid gland in common. It includes pathologies that cause an acute illness with severe thyroid pain (e.g., subacute thyroiditis and infectious thyroiditis) as well as conditions in which there is no clinically evident inflammation and the manifestations primarily reflect thyroid dysfunction or a goiter (e.g., painless thyroiditis and fibrous Riedel’s thyroiditis). Thyroiditis is an autoimmune disorder Autoimmune Disorder Septic Arthritis that leads to goiter Goiter A goiter is a chronic enlargement of the thyroid gland due to nonneoplastic growth occurring in the setting of hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism, or euthyroidism. Morphologically, thyroid enlargement can be diffuse (smooth consistency) or nodular (uninodular or multinodular). Goiter due to destruction of the thyroid gland.

Inflammatory disorders

  • Thyroiditis Thyroiditis Thyroiditis is a catchall term used to describe a variety of conditions that have inflammation of the thyroid gland in common. It includes pathologies that cause an acute illness with severe thyroid pain (e.g., subacute thyroiditis and infectious thyroiditis) as well as conditions in which there is no clinically evident inflammation and the manifestations primarily reflect thyroid dysfunction or a goiter (e.g., painless thyroiditis and fibrous Riedel’s thyroiditis). Thyroiditis: inflammation Inflammation Inflammation is a complex set of responses to infection and injury involving leukocytes as the principal cellular mediators in the body’s defense against pathogenic organisms. Inflammation is also seen as a response to tissue injury in the process of wound healing. The 5 cardinal signs of inflammation are pain, heat, redness, swelling, and loss of function. Inflammation of the thyroid gland. Thyroiditis Thyroiditis Thyroiditis is a catchall term used to describe a variety of conditions that have inflammation of the thyroid gland in common. It includes pathologies that cause an acute illness with severe thyroid pain (e.g., subacute thyroiditis and infectious thyroiditis) as well as conditions in which there is no clinically evident inflammation and the manifestations primarily reflect thyroid dysfunction or a goiter (e.g., painless thyroiditis and fibrous Riedel’s thyroiditis). Thyroiditis can be due to many different causes, including autoimmune inflammation Inflammation Inflammation is a complex set of responses to infection and injury involving leukocytes as the principal cellular mediators in the body’s defense against pathogenic organisms. Inflammation is also seen as a response to tissue injury in the process of wound healing. The 5 cardinal signs of inflammation are pain, heat, redness, swelling, and loss of function. Inflammation (most common), bacterial or viral infection, or a drug-induced reaction. Thyroiditis Thyroiditis Thyroiditis is a catchall term used to describe a variety of conditions that have inflammation of the thyroid gland in common. It includes pathologies that cause an acute illness with severe thyroid pain (e.g., subacute thyroiditis and infectious thyroiditis) as well as conditions in which there is no clinically evident inflammation and the manifestations primarily reflect thyroid dysfunction or a goiter (e.g., painless thyroiditis and fibrous Riedel’s thyroiditis). Thyroiditis can lead to both hyperthyroidism Hyperthyroidism Hypersecretion of thyroid hormones from the thyroid gland. Elevated levels of thyroid hormones increase basal metabolic rate. Thyrotoxicosis and Hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism Hypothyroidism Hypothyroidism is a condition characterized by a deficiency of thyroid hormones. Iodine deficiency is the most common cause worldwide, but Hashimoto’s disease (autoimmune thyroiditis) is the leading cause in non-iodine-deficient regions. Hypothyroidism. Initial inflammation Inflammation Inflammation is a complex set of responses to infection and injury involving leukocytes as the principal cellular mediators in the body’s defense against pathogenic organisms. Inflammation is also seen as a response to tissue injury in the process of wound healing. The 5 cardinal signs of inflammation are pain, heat, redness, swelling, and loss of function. Inflammation of the thyroid gland can lead to a release Release Release of a virus from the host cell following virus assembly and maturation. Egress can occur by host cell lysis, exocytosis, or budding through the plasma membrane. Virology of preformed thyroid hormone and cause subsequent hyperthyroidism Hyperthyroidism Hypersecretion of thyroid hormones from the thyroid gland. Elevated levels of thyroid hormones increase basal metabolic rate. Thyrotoxicosis and Hyperthyroidism. Once the preformed thyroid hormone is consumed, the individual may present with signs of hypothyroidism Hypothyroidism Hypothyroidism is a condition characterized by a deficiency of thyroid hormones. Iodine deficiency is the most common cause worldwide, but Hashimoto’s disease (autoimmune thyroiditis) is the leading cause in non-iodine-deficient regions. Hypothyroidism.
  • Goiter Goiter A goiter is a chronic enlargement of the thyroid gland due to nonneoplastic growth occurring in the setting of hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism, or euthyroidism. Morphologically, thyroid enlargement can be diffuse (smooth consistency) or nodular (uninodular or multinodular). Goiter and thyroid nodules Thyroid nodules A thyroid nodule is a disordered growth of thyroid cells that produces a mass in the thyroid gland. Most thyroid nodules are benign and detected either by the patient or by the clinician on examination. In other cases, a thyroid nodule is found in radiologic imaging incidentally. Ruling out of malignancy is important. Thyroid Nodules: a swollen thyroid gland due to hypo- or hypersecretion of thyroid hormones Thyroid hormones The 2 primary thyroid hormones are triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4). These hormones are synthesized and secreted by the thyroid, and they are responsible for stimulating metabolism in most cells of the body. Their secretion is regulated primarily by thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH), which is produced by the pituitary gland. Thyroid Hormones or inflammation Inflammation Inflammation is a complex set of responses to infection and injury involving leukocytes as the principal cellular mediators in the body’s defense against pathogenic organisms. Inflammation is also seen as a response to tissue injury in the process of wound healing. The 5 cardinal signs of inflammation are pain, heat, redness, swelling, and loss of function. Inflammation is called goiter Goiter A goiter is a chronic enlargement of the thyroid gland due to nonneoplastic growth occurring in the setting of hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism, or euthyroidism. Morphologically, thyroid enlargement can be diffuse (smooth consistency) or nodular (uninodular or multinodular). Goiter. Goiter Goiter A goiter is a chronic enlargement of the thyroid gland due to nonneoplastic growth occurring in the setting of hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism, or euthyroidism. Morphologically, thyroid enlargement can be diffuse (smooth consistency) or nodular (uninodular or multinodular). Goiter and thyroid nodules Thyroid nodules A thyroid nodule is a disordered growth of thyroid cells that produces a mass in the thyroid gland. Most thyroid nodules are benign and detected either by the patient or by the clinician on examination. In other cases, a thyroid nodule is found in radiologic imaging incidentally. Ruling out of malignancy is important. Thyroid Nodules can present singly (solitary nodular goiter Goiter A goiter is a chronic enlargement of the thyroid gland due to nonneoplastic growth occurring in the setting of hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism, or euthyroidism. Morphologically, thyroid enlargement can be diffuse (smooth consistency) or nodular (uninodular or multinodular). Goiter) or as multiple nodules in different parts of the gland ( multinodular goiter Multinodular goiter An enlarged thyroid gland containing multiple nodules (thyroid nodule), usually resulting from recurrent thyroid hyperplasia and involution over many years to produce the irregular enlargement. Multinodular goiters may be nontoxic or may induce thyrotoxicosis. Goiter).

Neoplasms Neoplasms New abnormal growth of tissue. Malignant neoplasms show a greater degree of anaplasia and have the properties of invasion and metastasis, compared to benign neoplasms. Benign Bone Tumors

Thyroid cancer Thyroid cancer Thyroid cancer is a malignancy arising from the thyroid gland cells: thyroid follicular cells (papillary, follicular, and anaplastic carcinomas) and calcitonin-producing C cells (medullary carcinomas). Rare cancers are derived from the lymphocytes (lymphoma) and/or stromal and vascular elements (sarcoma). Thyroid Cancer: an uncommon cancer that can be managed well if detected early. Thyroid cancer Thyroid cancer Thyroid cancer is a malignancy arising from the thyroid gland cells: thyroid follicular cells (papillary, follicular, and anaplastic carcinomas) and calcitonin-producing C cells (medullary carcinomas). Rare cancers are derived from the lymphocytes (lymphoma) and/or stromal and vascular elements (sarcoma). Thyroid Cancer arises from either the follicular or parafollicular cells within the thyroid gland. There are several subtypes of thyroid cancer Thyroid cancer Thyroid cancer is a malignancy arising from the thyroid gland cells: thyroid follicular cells (papillary, follicular, and anaplastic carcinomas) and calcitonin-producing C cells (medullary carcinomas). Rare cancers are derived from the lymphocytes (lymphoma) and/or stromal and vascular elements (sarcoma). Thyroid Cancer depending on the cell of origin and the mutations that occur: mutated follicular cells can lead to papillary, follicular, and anaplastic carcinomas, whereas calcitonin-producing C cell mutations can result in medullary carcinomas.

References

  1. Dorion, D. (2017). Thyroid anatomy. In Medscape. Retrieved August 8, 2021, from https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/845125-overview 
  2. Lyden, M.L., Wang, T.S., and Sosa, J.A. (2021). Surgical anatomy of the thyroid gland. In UpToDate. Retrieved August 12, 2021, from https://www.uptodate.com/contents/surgical-anatomy-of-the-thyroid-gland

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