The utility of I-123 pretherapy scan in I-131 radioiodine therapy for thyroid cancer

Thyroid. 2012 Mar;22(3):304-9. doi: 10.1089/thy.2011.0203. Epub 2012 Feb 2.


Background: There is a growing belief that a pretherapy scan yields little or no additional information that would impact on radioiodine ablation dosing. In addition, there is some concern regarding on the stunning effect of a pretherapy scan, especially when I-131 radioisotope is used for imaging. We hypothesized that a pretherapy scan provides invaluable information on the amount of thyroid remnant, sometimes indicating the need for two-step I-131 ablation. It may also detect unsuspected local lymph node involvement or distant metastases, indicating the requirement for a higher I-131 dose after thyroidectomy. The aim of this study was to evaluate how effective pretherapy scans are for guiding I-131 therapy planning and augmenting information provided in the pathology reports for thyroidectomy specimens.

Methods: We reviewed 122 patients who underwent I-123 pretherapy scan and I-131 radioablation at Yale New Haven Hospital between January 2006 and August 2007. The percentage of neck uptake and whole-body images were acquired 24 hours following the administration of 51.8 MBq (1.4 mCi) of I-123 NaI. A 24-hour uptake of >3% was used as the cutoff to determine whether there was a greater than desired quantity of thyroid remnant, which would require a two-step treatment protocol. Furthermore, attention was paid to identifying cervical lymph nodes, which may not have presented themselves in the euthyroid state at the time of thyroidectomy. Additional clinical information provided by pretherapy scans was computed as percentages with 95% confidence intervals by using adjusted Wald intervals.

Results: Overall, the pretherapy scans provided additional critical information in 25% of the cases (31/122; 95% CI: 18%-34%). For cases demonstrating >3% uptake with midline lymph nodes, the pretherapy scan provided additional information in 50% of the cases (8/16; 95% CI: 28%-72%).

Conclusions: Our study demonstrated that I-123 pretherapy scans provide valuable information with regard to unsuspected lymph nodes or distant metastases, indicating the requirement for a significantly higher I-131 dose, and unexpected large thyroid remnants, suggesting the need for two-step ablation. We should take advantage of stimulated pretherapy scans and adjust the treatment dosing accordingly.

MeSH terms

  • Adenocarcinoma, Papillary / diagnostic imaging
  • Adenocarcinoma, Papillary / pathology
  • Adenocarcinoma, Papillary / radiotherapy
  • Adenoma, Oxyphilic / diagnostic imaging
  • Adenoma, Oxyphilic / pathology
  • Adenoma, Oxyphilic / radiotherapy
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Carcinoma
  • Carcinoma, Papillary
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Iodine Radioisotopes / therapeutic use*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasm Metastasis / diagnostic imaging*
  • Neoplasm Metastasis / radiotherapy
  • Radionuclide Imaging
  • Radiopharmaceuticals / therapeutic use*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Thyroid Cancer, Papillary
  • Thyroid Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging*
  • Thyroid Neoplasms / pathology
  • Thyroid Neoplasms / radiotherapy
  • Thyroidectomy


  • Iodine Radioisotopes
  • Radiopharmaceuticals

Supplementary concepts

  • Thyroid cancer, Hurthle cell