JOURNAL ARTICLE

Relative value of thallium-201 and iodine-131 scans in the detection of recurrence or distant metastasis of well differentiated thyroid carcinoma

J D Lin, P F Kao, H F Weng, W T Lu, M J Huang
European Journal of Nuclear Medicine 1998, 25 (7): 695-700
9662590
Radioactive iodine (131I) has been found to be more sensitive and more specific than thallium-201 for the detection of distant metastases and thyroid remnants in the neck in cases of well-differentiated thyroid carcinoma. 201Tl has been deemed particularly useful in localizing metastases or recurrence in patients with a negative 131I scan and abnormal levels of serum thyroglobulin (Tg). This study aimed to: (1) determine the value of 201Tl imaging in localizing metastases or recurrence in patients with well-differentiated thyroid carcinoma, and (2) evaluate the false-positive and false-negative results of 131I and 201Tl scintigraphy. Sixty-two thyroid remnant ablated patients who underwent simultaneous postoperative 201Tl and 131I scans and and serum Tg determinations were evaluated. Fifty patients had papillary thyroid carcinomas and 12 had follicular thyroid carcinomas. 201Tl imaging was performed before the 131I studies. Of the 62 patients who underwent 201Tl imaging studies, 24 were found to have positive results, with local recurrence or distant metastases. Patients with positive results in the 201Tl imaging studies tended to be older, were mor often male, had higher Tg levels and had a higher recurrence rate. Of these 24 patients, ten had negative diagnostic or therapeutic 131I scans. Concurrently, serum Tg levels were less than 5 ng/ml in five of these ten patients. Three patients were deemed false positive by 201Tl scans; one had a parotid tumour, one a periodontal abscess and one lung metastasis. Among the 38 patients with negative 201Tl scans, 11 had positive findings on 131I scans. Three had distant metastases: two with lung metastases and one with bone metastases. Patients with false-positive results on 131I scans included those with biliary tract stones, ovarian cysts, and breast secretion. Of the 27 patients with negative 201Tl and 131I scans, 15 had elevated serum Tg levels. Among these, local recurrence followed by lung metastases was manifested in a 49-year-old male with papillary thyroid carcinoma. In conclusion, both 131I and 201Tl scans are useful in the detection of recurrence or distant metastasis of well differentiated thyroid cancers. 201Tl scan could in particular be used in patients with a negative 131I scan in conjunction with an elevated Tg level.

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