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PLoS One. 2008 Apr 2;3(4):e1885. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0001885.

Low vs. high radioiodine activity to ablate the thyroid after thyroidectomy for cancer: a randomized study.

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Department of Oncology, Helsinki University Central Hospital, Helsinki, Finland.



Radioactive iodine is commonly administered following thyroidectomy for differentiated thyroid carcinoma to ablate the thyroid remnant. The optimal administered activity of radioiodine is unknown.


Adult subjects (n = 160) diagnosed with papillary or follicular thyroid carcinoma were randomly allocated to receive either 1100 MBq (30 mCi) or 3700 MBq (100 mCi) activity of radioiodine ((131)I) following thyroidectomy. The study participants were prepared for ablation using thyroid hormone withdrawal. Ablation was considered successful when serum thyroglobulin concentration was less than 1 ng/mL and no uptake was present in (131)I scan. Ablation was successful following one administration of radioiodine in 42 (52%; 95% CI, 41% to 63%) of the 81 evaluable study participants who received 1100 MBq, and in 43 (56%, 45% to 67%) of the 77 subjects who received 3700 MBq activity (P = .61). There was no difference between the groups in the numbers of repeat radioiodine treatments needed to complete ablation (P = .27). The higher activity was associated with more nausea and taste disturbances, and a longer stay in a radioprotected isolation unit. None of the participants died from thyroid cancer during a median follow up of 51 months; three subjects in the 3700 MBq group and none in the 1100 MBq group were diagnosed with distant metastases during follow-up. In a meta-analysis of four randomized studies that compared the 1100 and 3700 MBq activities, the 1100 MBq activity tended to be associated with a higher risk of unsuccessful ablation (relative risk 1.148, 95% CI 0.974 to 1.353, P = .10).


The results provide no conclusive evidence that 3700 MBq activity is more effective for ablation of the thyroid remnant than 1100 MBq activity. The 3700 MBq activity is associated with more adverse effects.


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