Selective use of RAI for ablation and adjuvant therapy after total thyroidectomy for differentiated thyroid cancer: a practical approach to clinical decision making

Oral Oncol. 2013 Jul;49(7):676-83. doi: 10.1016/j.oraloncology.2013.03.444. Epub 2013 Apr 16.


Objectives: For the past 40 years, many clinicians have recommended RAI remnant ablation for essentially all differentiated thyroid cancer patients with a primary tumor size greater than 1.5 cm or with any evidence of even microscopic disease outside the thyroid capsule. This "one size fits all" approach exposes many low risk thyroid cancer patients to the risks of ionizing radiation with little potential benefit. Current thyroid cancer management guidelines call for a far more risk adapted approach to the selection of patients for post-operative RAI treatment.

Materials and methods: We will review the current selective use of RAI ablation recommendations and provide a practical approach to implementation of a risk adapted approach to post-operative RAI administration.

Results and conclusions: We will show how thoughtful integration of pre-operative, intra-operative, and post-operative clinico-pathologic factors allows the clinician to accurately identify patients most likely to benefit from RAI administration. This approach ensures that patients most likely to experience a clinical benefit are selected for RAI ablation while avoiding unnecessary exposure to ionizing radiation in the majority of low to intermediate risk thyroid cancer patients.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cell Differentiation*
  • Humans
  • Iodine Radioisotopes / therapeutic use*
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians'*
  • Thyroid Neoplasms / pathology
  • Thyroid Neoplasms / radiotherapy*
  • Thyroid Neoplasms / surgery*


  • Iodine Radioisotopes