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Information about the field of Radioiodine

What is a radioiodine therapy?

The thyroid gland is one of the most important regulating organs of the human body. It influences ...

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Information about the field of Radioiodine

What is a radioiodine therapy?

The thyroid gland is one of the most important regulating organs of the human body. It influences the hormone balance, metabolism as well as the cardiovascular system and psyche of the human body. It is apparent that even minimal fluctuations in the activity of the thyroid gland (hyperactivity or hypofunction) can have big impacts on the whole organism.

The radioiodine therapy (in short RIT) is a therapy used in nuclear medicine to treat autonomous thyroid diseases, the Morbus Basedow and several other thyroid cancers. Using a radioactive isotope of iodine (Iodine 131) this therapy’s goal is to eliminate the diseased parts of the thyroid gland whereas the healthy parts mostly remain untouched.

What are the indications for a radioiodine therapy?

For the most part the RIT is used to treat autonomous diseases, for example the hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism. Furthermore, the Morbus Basedow with its typical hypertrophic thyroid gland (struma) and thyroid cancers that can save iodine can be treated with this.

How does the radioiodine therapy proceed?

Usually the iodine 131 is swallowed in the form of a sodium iodide capsule. In some rare cases where it is not possible for patients to swallow the capsule, the sodium iodide is applied intravenously through a catheter. Following the normal bloodstream, the capsule reaches for its target: the thyroid gland. What is very special about the thyroidea is that only this organ can receive and utilize the iodine, that means every surplus of iodine is eliminated through the gastrointestinal tract within 24 hours. The RIT takes advantages of this speciality by using a high dose of the radioactive iodine (the so called “absorbed dose”) effectively only in the thyroid gland, other tissues of the body mostly stay unspoiled. Roughly one week after application the radioactive iodine loses half of its radiation, being decomposed biologically by the human body in the meantime

What are negative side effects and complications of the RIT?

The physiology of the thyroid gland contributes to a big advantage of this form of therapy: Only the thyroidea can save and use iodine. This means if there are side effects or complications, they will only be located within the thyroidea. In very rare cases patients may be confronted with a discreet feeling of pressure in the neck region owing to an increased cell activity during the RIT. The most frequent complication is an acute inflammation of the thyroid gland, the so called radiothyroiditis. It is a result of the radioactive exposition during this therapy which complaints can be treated through anti-inflammatory medicine.

What do you need to note after a radioiodine therapy?

During the RIT patients are confronted with radioactive substances. Although a great part is excreted for example through the urine during the stationary stay in the hospital, there are still radioactive particles in the human body that only metabolize after several weeks. Patients should therefore heed the advices given in the Federal Office for Radiation Protection in consultation with their treating doctor.

Distance to other persons, especially to kids and expectant women, should be kept. Family contact should be cut off to two hours a day. Moreover, you should not go on a cruise after being treated with the RIT, that means longer journeys should be avoided. Generally one can say that longer direct contact to other people should be avoided. In the first weeks patients treated with the RIT shouldn’t go to concerts or cinemas where normally large groups of people gather together.

RIT patients should take hygienic precautions, that includes washing the hands after every visit in the bathroom and using own towels. Corroboratative investigations normally take place after three to six months after a successful radioiodine therapy.


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