Radioactive iodine I-131 or iodine 131 therapy is an effective treatment for overactive thyroid, commonly known by the condition, hyperthyroidism. The main causative influence of hyperthyroidism is Graves disease, which causes the entire thyroid gland to become overactive by increasing in size and producing excessive amounts of thyroid hormones.
Principle of iodine 131 therapy
A subdivision of medicinal imaging, nuclear medicine employs minute amounts of substances that are radioactive in nature, to diagnose or determine the intensity of myriad diseases, like heart ailments, gastrointestinal, neurological or endocrine disorder, cancers and other diseases, with the purpose of defining their plan of treatment. Since nuclear medicine methods pinpoint molecular activity occurring within the system, they have enough potential to carry out prognosis of disease and monitor patient’s progress in accordance to the therapeutic interventions.
I-131 or radioactive iodine is an iodine isotope that emits detectable radiation. On swallowing I-131 in small dose, it traverses through the blood stream into the GI tract and gets concentrated in the thyroid cells, where it starts acting to destroy the overactive thyroid gland cells.
Who performs the therapy?
Apart from a qualified thyroid surgeon and an endocrinologist, a radiologist, trained in radiology or nuclear medicine, and possibly a radiation safety specialist attends the treatment procedure. While the surgeon and endocrinologist perform the actual procedure and take care of the patient’s wellbeing, the radiation officers oversee the entire course of treatment from a distance to ensure that maximum safety has been deployed in the usage of radioactive materials like iodine-131. This therapy does not entail sophisticated equipments or lengthy procedures as the patient must simply consume the prepared dose of iodine-131, while maintaining full safety.
Preparation prior to therapy
Patients are advised not to consume food or liquor post-midnight of the day of therapy. Also, any anti-thyroid drugs must be stopped at least five days before therapy. Some times, to ensure overall efficacy and minimal side-effects from the therapy, anti-thyroid injections or medications are stopped up to ten days before the therapy.
Details of procedure
Hyperthyroidism treatment like iodine 131 therapy is always performed on the outpatient setup, as the dose needed is quite low and there is no necessity for sterile conditions or additional equipment. Iodine 131 is consumed in a small, single dose, either in liquid or capsule form, which passes through the bloodstream to get absorbed quickly into the gastrointestinal tract. The treatment starts producing effects about three months later, with significant benefit manifesting up to six months later. A single dose works well enough to cure hyperthyroidism and vary rarely is the second or third treatment needed.
After radioactive iodine therapy, patients are advised to follow few precautions, the most important of them being complete avoidance of contact between other people of family, with special emphasis to pregnant females and young children. Others are given below:
· Use of private toilets are recommended and patient must flush twice after use.
· Eating utensils, clothes and other items must be disposed off at a place separate from others.
· It is essential to sleep alone and evade intimate contact with people till the first four days of treatment.
· Women patients must avoid pregnancy in the next one year after therapy and lactating mothers should stop breast-feeding few days before the therapy to abolish milk production completely.
· Pregnant women must refrain from opting for this therapy.
Level of Patient Comfort – All You Need to Know About Radioactive Iodine 131 Therapy for Thyroid Cancer
After intake of radioactive iodine, patients do experience sensations of pain, in the throat area where the thyroid gland resides. Pain after therapy is similar to that felt in a sore throat condition and can be eased by an over-the-counter reliever. A fraction of people undergoing this procedure feel no pain at all and even if pain does occur, it disappears within a day or two. Overall, the procedure is hassle-free and does not inflict strain on the patients. They can recover and restore normal activities quickly after therapy.
Iodine 131 therapy is highly effective in the sense that it does not introduce any permanent or serious side effects on the patient. As long as precautions are followed with care, this therapy is more likely to bring about a positive change, by restoring normal activity of the thyroid gland. Since radioactive iodine acts by destroying thyroid glands, the body may be deprived of essential thyroid hormone post-therapy. Thus patients need to resort to consumption of thyroid pills to compensate for reduction in thyroid hormone. However this is not a permanent phenomenon and also, thyroid pills come cheap.