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J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2002 Mar;87(3):1073-7.

High dose of (131)I therapy for the treatment of hyperthyroidism caused by Graves' disease.

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Department of Medicine, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts 02115, USA.


Radioactive iodine ((131)I) has become the most widely used therapy for patients with hyperthyroidism caused by Graves' disease in the United States. There remains, however, significant variability among (131)I dosing regimens, and it is clear that most patients ultimately develop hypothyroidism after therapy. To avoid persistent hyperthyroidism, we adopted a high dose (131)I therapy protocol based on measurement of 24-h thyroid (123)I uptake designed to deliver 8 mCi (296 MBq) to the thyroid gland 24 h after (131)I administration. To evaluate the efficacy of this protocol, we reviewed our clinical experience over a 7-yr period. We treated 261 patients (219 women and 42 men) with hyperthyroidism caused by Graves' disease with (131)I [mean dose, 14.6 mCi (540 MBq)] between 1993 and 1999. Before treatment, 207 (79%) had received an antithyroid drug (109 propylthiouracil and 98 methimazole). We determined their thyroid status 1 yr after treatment in relation to age, pretreatment with an antithyroid drug, pretreatment thyroid size, and dose of (131)I retained in the thyroid 24 h after treatment. Among the 261 patients, 225 (86%) were euthyroid or hypothyroid 1 yr after treatment, and 36 patients (14%) had persistent hyperthyroidism and required a second treatment. The patients who had persistent hyperthyroidism were younger (P < 0.01), had larger thyroid glands (P < 0.01), higher pretreatment thyroid (123)I uptake values (P < 0.01), and higher serum T(4) concentrations (P < 0.01) and were more likely to have taken antithyroid medication before administration of (131)I (P = 0.01). Five of these patients developed transient hypothyroidism, followed by thyrotoxicosis. There was an asymptotic, inverse relationship between the retained dose of (131)I at 24 h and persistent hyperthyroidism, revealing a 5-10% failure rate despite delivery of up to 400 microCi (14.8 MBq)/g. A dose of (131)I that results in accumulation of 8 mCi (296 MBq) in the thyroid gland 24 h after administration is an effective treatment for the majority of patients with Graves' hyperthyroidism. Young patients with larger thyroid glands, higher serum T(4) concentrations, and higher 24-h thyroid (123)I uptake values, and those pretreated with antithyroid medication for greater than 4 months are at higher risk for treatment failure. A higher dose of (131)I may be advisable in such patients.

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