Ultrasound is the recommended staging modality for papillary thyroid cancer. Surgeons proficient in US assessment of the neck and experienced in the management of papillary thyroid cancer (PTC) appear uniquely qualified to assess the lateral cervical lymph nodes for metastatic disease. Of 310 patients treated for PTC between 2000 and 2008, 109 underwent surgeon-performed ultrasound (SUS) of the lateral neck preoperatively. Fine needle aspiration was performed on suspicious lateral lymph nodes. SUS findings were compared with FNA cytology and results of postoperative imaging studies. The sensitivity and negative predictive value of SUS were 88% and 97%, respectively. Four patients were found to have missed metastatic disease within 6 months. No patient underwent a nontherapeutic neck dissection. SUS combined with US-guided FNA of suspicious lymph nodes can accurately stage PTC to reliably direct surgical management.