Radioactive Iodine Therapy
What is Radioactive Iodine Therapy?
There are two thyroid therapy procedures. Radioactive iodine is used because iodine has an affinity for the thyroid. Thyroid therapy for an overactive thyroid gland (hyperthyroidism) is a titrated amount of radioactive iodine given to specifically destroy some of the thyroid gland. The hope is that the patient will no longer need thyroid medication after the therapy.
Thyroid ablation is a procedure where a larger amount of radioactive iodine is given to destroy any thyroid tissue that remains after the thyroid has been removed due to thyroid cancer. The plan is to destroy any thyroid tissue that may be in any part of the body.
What will happen during a thyroid therapy?
The patient needs a current thyroid uptake and scan. The physician will prescribe the amount of radioactive iodine needed for the therapy based on this test. The patient cannot be pregnant.
The physician will discuss the radiation safety of this procedure with the patient. The discussion will cover interaction with others for the next few days and travel plans for the next three months. The patient should bring a list of questions, and can meet with the physician at the time of the thyroid uptake and scan to discuss any concerns. The actual therapy is swallowing a pill.
What will happen during the procedure and how will I get my results?
The patient needs to be prepped for this therapy. The thyroid will have already been removed. The endocrinologist will prep the patient with a low iodine diet (usually for 30 days), will order blood tests, and will decide if the patient is to be off thyroid medication for three weeks or will be getting thyrogen injections.
The patient needs to discuss the home arrangements with the endocrinologist as the patient needs to understand in advance the need to be removed from small children and to be home for a few days. On the day of the therapy, further discussion will occur with the patient and any family members. The actual therapy is in pill form. The patient needs to go directly home after the therapy.
The patient can call the administering physician or any of the nuclear medicine technologists with any questions after the therapy.
One week later, the patient returns for a total body iodine scan. This is a 30-minute scan where the patient lies on a table and a camera moves from the top of the head to the thighs. This will show that the radioactive iodine did go to the thyroid bed to destroy any tissue. Six months later, the patient may be booked for a diagnostic total body iodine scan, which should show no activity in the neck as all the thyroid tissue has been destroyed.
The physician who interprets the scan will send a report to your physician, who will then share the results with you. You will continue to be followed by your endocrinolgist to monitor your blood levels.