Because radiotherapy in the head and neck region is necessary in the treatment of childhood cancer, possibilities to prevent damage to the thyroid gland must be explored. We developed a model in which radiation-induced effects can be investigated in a way that these effects can be quantified, using thyroid dysmorphology and plasma TSH. Thirty-five Wistar rats, 5 weeks old, were X-irradiated on the cervical region, with a single dose varying from 0 to 20 Gy. After 6 weeks, TSH, T4 and T3 were determined, and thyroid glands were processed for histological examination by two independent pathologists. A histological classification scale was developed, using follicular size, colloid density and cell height of thyrocytes to measure hyperplasia and hypertrophy. By the sum of these scores, a cell-activity index was calculated, which was related to plasma TSH concentration. Numbers of PAS-positive droplets and epithelial desquamation were also counted. Inter-observer reliability was assessed. Good to very good reliability was found for scores of follicular size, colloid density and cell height. Significant increase of cell-activity index was found after 10,15 and 20 Gy. The plasma TSH concentration was positively correlated to the cell-activity index, increasing with radiation-doses up to 15 Gy. The number of desquamated cells was significantly increased after radiation doses >10 Gy, with moderate reliability. In conclusion, this model using cell-activity index of thyrocytes together with plasma thyrotropin concentrations and desquamation of cells can be used for interpretation and future (pre-clinical) studies of prevention of radiation-induced thyroid damage.