Research Article

Radioiodine treatment of multinodular non-toxic goitre.

BMJ 1993; 307 doi: (Published 02 October 1993) Cite this as: BMJ 1993;307:828
  1. B Nygaard,
  2. L Hegedüs,
  3. M Gervil,
  4. H Hjalgrim,
  5. P Søe-Jensen,
  6. J M Hansen
  1. Department of Internal Medicine, Herley University Hospital, Denmark.


    OBJECTIVE--To investigate the long term effect of radioactive iodine on thyroid function and size in patients with non-toxic multinodular goitre. DESIGN--Consecutive patients with multinodular non-toxic goitre selected for radioactive iodine treatment and followed for a minimum of 12 months (median 48 months) after an intended dose of 3.7 MBq/g thyroid tissue corrected to a 100% uptake of iodine-131 in 24 hours. PATIENTS--69 patients with a growing multinodular non-toxic goitre causing local compression symptoms or cosmetic inconveniences. The treatment was chosen because of a high operative risk, previous thyroidectomy, or refusal to be operated on. MAIN OUTCOME MEASUREMENTS--Standard thyroid function variables and ultrasonically determined thyroid volume before treatment as well as 1, 2, 3, 6, and 12 months after treatment and then once a year. RESULTS--56 patients were treated with a single dose of 131I, 12 with two doses, and one with four doses. In 45 patients treated with one dose and remaining euthyroid the median thyroid volume was reduced from 73 (interquartile range 50-106) ml to 29 (23-48) ml at 24 months in the 39 patients in whom this was measured during follow up. The median reduction was 40 (22-48) ml (60% reduction, p < 0.0001), half of which occurred within three months. Patients treated with two doses as well as those developing hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism had a significant reduction in thyroid volume. Eleven patients developed hypothyroidism (cumulative five year risk 22%, 95% confidence interval 4.8% to 38.4%). Side effects were few: three cases of hyperthyroidism and two cases of radiation thyroiditis. Only one patient was dissatisfied with the result; she was referred for operation six months after treatment. CONCLUSIONS--A substantial reduction in thyroid volume accompanied by a low incidence of hypothyroidism and few side effects makes the use of radioactive iodine an attractive alternative to surgery in selected cases of non-toxic multinodular goitre.