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Ectopic thyroid

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

Variant anatomy

During embryological development, the thyroid gland migrates down from the foramen cecum at the posterior aspect of the tongue to its permanent location in the infrahyoid neck. 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 or elsewhere 4:

  • lingual: base of tongue (90%)
  • sublingual: below the tongue
  • prelaryngeal
  • other sites, e.g. mediastinum (<1%), intratracheal

Thyroid tissue may also be present in the normal thyroid bed, so-called "dual ectopic thyroid" 4.

Radiographic features

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

Anatomy: Head and neck

Thyroid pathology
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Article information

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

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Cases and figures

  • Figure 1: migration route
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  • Lingual thyroid
    Case 1: lingual thyroid
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  • Case 2: lingual thyroid
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  • Case 3: lingual thyroid with multinodular goiter
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  • Case 4: sublingual
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  • Case 5: pretracheal
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  • Case 6: retro-esophageal
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  • Case 7: mediastinal
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  • Case 8
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  • Case 9
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