Radioactive iodine treatment is used to treat certain thyroid diseases and thyroid cancer. The procedure is done with a radioactive form of the element iodine. Radioactive iodine is taken up by the thyroid gland. There it treats thyroid disease by destroying the cells. The radioactivity is not spread to other parts of the body.
It may be done to treat:
Possible side effects and complications of radioactive iodine therapy include:
Pregnant women are at an increased risk of complications. The procedure may be harmful to the fetus. It should not be done in pregnant women. Nursing mothers should stop breastfeeding for at least a week after the procedure.
You will be given some tablets or liquids that contain radioactive iodine. You will swallow the tablets. The iodine will be naturally taken up by the thyroid.
At least an hour
The treatment is painless.
Any radioactive iodine that is not taken up directly by the thyroid will be passed through the urine. Be sure to follow your doctor's
instructions. This may include:
The majority of people who undergo the treatment for
will have their thyroid levels return to normal within 8-12 weeks. However, in a small number of people, a second dose of radioactive iodine treatment is needed.
A follow-up visit with your doctor will be scheduled 4-6 weeks after treatment. Radioactive active iodine treatment can cause
(low thyroid function). This can occur at any time after treatment. It may be temporary or permanent. Your doctor will need to check your thyroid status every few months until levels are stable.
Call your doctor if any of these occur:
If you think you have an emergency, call for emergency medical services right away.
Hormone Health Network
Thyroid Foundation of Canada
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Radioiodine (I-131) therapy. Radiological Society of North America Radiology Info website. Available at:
http://www.radiologyinfo.org/en/info.cfm?pg=radioiodine. Updated February 12, 2014. Accessed December 16, 2014.
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Last reviewed December 2014 by Kim A. Carmichael, MD, FACP
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