JOURNAL ARTICLE

Is diagnostic iodine-131 scanning useful after total thyroid ablation for differentiated thyroid cancer?

A F Cailleux, E Baudin, J P Travagli, M Ricard, M Schlumberger
Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism 2000, 85 (1): 175-8
10634383
A diagnostic iodine-131 (131I) total body scan (TBS) is usually recommended 6 to 12 months after thyroid ablation for differentiated thyroid carcinoma. Its usefulness was evaluated in 256 consecutive patients treated and followed up at the Institut Gustave Roussy for papillary (n = 200), well differentiated (n = 27), or poorly differentiated (n = 29) follicular thyroid carcinomas. All patients underwent a near-total or total thyroidectomy and 131I ablation with 3.7 GBq (100 mCi). No TBS was performed before 131I ablation. The TBS performed after the administration of 131I to destroy the thyroid remnants showed uptake (<2%) limited to the thyroid bed. A diagnostic 131I-TBS was obtained after withdrawal of T4 treatment, with either 74 MBq (2 mCi; n = 82) or 185 MBq (5 mCi; n = 174), 6 to 12 months after initial treatment, with serum thyroglobulin (Tg) determination. No interference in the Tg assay was found in these 256 patients. Uptake in the thyroid bed was not detected (total ablation) in 236 patients, was visible but too low to be measured in 19 patients, and attained 1% in only 1 patient. No uptake was found outside the thyroid bed. The serum Tg level, once thyroid hormone treatment had been withdrawn, was below 1 ng/mL in 210 patients, ranged from 1-10 ng/mL in 31 patients, and was above 10 ng/mL in 15 patients. A 131I-TBS performed with 3.7 GBq in nine patients with a Tg level above 10 ng/mL, showed foci of uptake outside the thyroid bed in three patients; lung metastases were demonstrated by a CT scan in another patient, and palpable lymph node metastases were found in one patient. In conclusion, a diagnostic 131I-TBS with 74-185 MBq performed 1 yr after thyroid ablation demonstrated no abnormal uptake; it did not correlate with results of Tg determination and only confirmed the completeness of thyroid ablation. The serum Tg level obtained after withdrawal of T4 treatment permits the selection of patients with a Tg level exceeding 10 ng/mL, for scanning with 3.7 GBq (100 mCi).

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