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Radiat Res. 2006 Jul;166(1 Pt 2):128-40.

Normal organ radiation dosimetry and associated uncertainties in nuclear medicine, with emphasis on iodine-131.

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  • 1Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee 37232, USA.


In many medical applications involving the administration of iodine-131 ((131)I) in the form of iodide (I(-)), most of the dose is delivered to the thyroid gland. To reliably estimate the thyroid absorbed dose, the following data are required: the thyroid gland size (i.e. mass), the fractional uptake of (131)I by the thyroid, the spatial distribution of (131)I within the thyroid, and the length of time (131)I is retained in the thyroid before it is released back to blood, distributed in other organs and tissues, and excreted from the body. Estimation of absorbed dose to nonthyroid tissues likewise requires knowledge of the time course of activity in each organ. Such data are rarely available, however, and therefore dose calculations are generally based on reference models. The MIRD and ICRP have published metabolic models and have calculated absorbed doses per unit intake for many nuclides and radioactive pharmaceuticals. Given the activity taken into the body, one can use such models and make reasonable calculations for average organ doses. When normal retention and excretion pathways are altered, the baseline models need to be modified, and the resulting organ dose estimates are subject to larger errors. This paper describes the historical evolution of radioactive isotopes in medical diagnosis and therapy. We nonmathematically summarize the methods used in current practice to estimate absorbed dose and summarize some of the risk data that have emerged from medical studies of patients with special attention to dose and effects observed in those who received (131)I-iodide in diagnosis and/or therapy.

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