The Success of 131I Ablation in Thyroid Cancer Patients Is Significantly Reduced After a Diagnostic Activity of 40 MBq 131I

Nuklearmedizin. 2009;48(4):138-42; quiz N19-20. doi: 10.3413/nukmed-0225. Epub 2009 Apr 22.


Objective: Dosimetry studies have shown that activities of 131I as small as 10-20 MBq may cause a stunning effect. A result of this stunning effect may be a lower success rate of the ablative 131I therapy for differentiated thyroid carcinoma (DTC). The aim of this study was to determine whether pre-therapeutic uptake measurement with 40 MBq 131I causes a lower success rate of ablation.

Design: retrospective chart review study.

Patients, methods: In two hospitals the ablation protocols differed in one respect only: in the one hospital no diagnostic 131I was applied before ablation (group 1, n = 48), whereas in the other hospital a 24-h uptake-measurement with 40 MBq 131I was performed (group 2, n = 51). Included were all DTC patients without distant metastases who had undergone 131I ablation between July 2002 and December 2005, and who had returned for 131I follow-up. Successful ablation was defined as absence of pathological 131I uptake on diagnostic whole-body scintigraphy and undetectable thyroglobulin-levels under TSH stimulation.

Results: Overall, ablation was successful in 31/48 patients (65%) in group 1 and in 17/51 patients (33%) in group 2 (p=0.002). Multivariate analysis showed that pre-therapeutic uptake measurement using 40 MBq 131I was an independent determinant for success of ablation (p = 0.002).

Conclusions: After applying a diagnostic activity of 40 MBq 131I before ablation, the success rate of ablation is severely reduced. Consequently, the routine application of 131I for diagnostic scintigraphy or uptake measurement prior to 131I ablation is best avoided.

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Iodine Radioisotopes / therapeutic use*
  • Lymphatic Metastasis
  • Male
  • Neoplasm Invasiveness
  • Radiopharmaceuticals / therapeutic use
  • Radiotherapy Dosage
  • Thyroid Neoplasms / pathology
  • Thyroid Neoplasms / radiotherapy*
  • Thyroid Neoplasms / surgery
  • Thyroidectomy
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Iodine Radioisotopes
  • Radiopharmaceuticals