Context: After surgery for differentiated thyroid carcinoma, many patients are treated with radioiodine to ablate remnant thyroid tissue. This procedure has been performed with the patient in the hypothyroid state to promote endogenous TSH stimulation and is often associated with hypothyroid symptoms and impaired quality of life. OBJECTIVE AND INTERVENTION: This international, randomized, controlled, multicenter trial aimed to compare the efficacy and safety of recombinant human TSH (rhTSH) to prepare euthyroid patients on L-thyroxine therapy (euthyroid group) to ablate remnant thyroid tissue with 3.7 GBq (100 mCi) 131I, compared with that with conventional remnant ablation performed in the hypothyroid state (hypothyroid group). Quality of life was determined at the time of randomization and ablation. After the administration of the 131-I dose, the rate of radiation clearance from blood, thyroid remnant, and whole body was measured.
Results: The predefined primary criterion for successful ablation was "no visible uptake in the thyroid bed, or if visible, fractional uptake less than 0.1%" on neck scans performed 8 months after therapy and was satisfied in 100% of patients in both groups. A secondary criterion for ablation, an rhTSH-stimulated serum thyroglobulin concentration less than 2 ng/ml, was fulfilled by 23 of 24 (96%) euthyroid patients and 18 of 21 (86%) hypothyroid patients (P = 0.2341). Quality of life was well preserved in the euthyroid group, compared with the hypothyroid group, as demonstrated by their lower pretreatment scores on the Billewicz scale for hypothyroid signs and symptoms, 27 +/- 7 vs. 18 +/- 4 (P < 0.0001) and their significantly higher Short Form-36 Health Assessment Scale scores in five of eight categories. Euthyroid patients had a statistically significant one third lower radiation dose to the blood, compared with patients in the hypothyroid group.
Conclusions: This study demonstrates comparable remnant ablation rates in patients prepared for 131I remnant ablation with 3.7 GBq by either administering rhTSH or withholding thyroid hormone. rhTSH-prepared patients maintained a higher quality of life and received less radiation exposure to the blood.