Intended for healthcare professionals


What to tell patients about radioiodine therapy

BMJ 2006; 333 doi: (Published 03 August 2006) Cite this as: BMJ 2006;333:271
  1. Daniel J Cuthbertson (, clinical lecturer in diabetes and endocrinology,
  2. John Davidson, consultant in nuclear and general medicine
  1. Ninewells Hospital and Medical School, Dundee DD1 9SY
  2. Ninewells Hospital and Medical School, Dundee DD1 9SY

    Avoid close contact with other people, don't try to conceive, and take your radiation certificate when flying

    In this week's BMJ Gangopadhyay and colleagues report the case of an unfortunate patient who activated an airport radiation detector six weeks after receiving radioiodine 131I therapy and was consequently subjected to intense examination and interrogation (p 293).1 No clinical practice guidelines cover this type of problem. So, on current evidence, how should doctors advise patients who are about to receive radioiodine therapy?

    Each year radioiodine is administered to 10 000 people for hyperthyroidism in the UK.2 After injection or ingestion, radioiodine initially concentrates in the thyroid gland and then circulates through the bloodstream, with 80% excreted renally. While the radioactive urine is stored in the bladder, until it is voided, the gonads are irradiated: after an administered dose of 750 MBq …

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