Ectopic thyroid

An ectopic thyroid gland is one which is located in a location other than the normal position anterior to the laryngeal cartilages.

During embryological development, the thyroid gland migrates down from the foramen cecum at the posterior aspect of the tongue to its permanent location. This normal migration can be halted at any point, or indeed can go 'off-target' with thyroid tissue coming to rest in unusual locations within the neck.

By far the most common location is near its embryological origin at the foramen cecum, resulting in a lingual thyroid. This accounts for 90% of all cases of ectopic thyroids. 

As imaging findings (other than location) are identical irrespective of location, the discussion on ectopic thyroids is continued as part of the lingual thyroid article. 

Anatomy: Head and neck
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Article information

rID: 9571
System: Head & Neck
Section: Anatomy
Synonyms or Alternate Spellings:
  • Ectopic thyroid gland

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Cases and figures

  • Figure 1: migration route
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  • Case 1: pretracheal
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  • Lingual thyroid
    Case 2: sublingual
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  • Case 3: retro-esophageal
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  • Lingual thyroid
    Case 4: lingual thyroid
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  • Case 5: lingual thyroid with multinodular goiter
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  • Case 6: lingual thyroid
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