Precautions for radioactive iodine treatment for thyroid

Tess Thompson

Many thyroid malfunction cases that are caused by a thyroid cancer are treated surgically. This involves invasive surgery that is conducted to remove the cancerous tissues.

Most patients that are treated surgically are asked to undergo radioactive iodine treatment (RAI) a few months later. This therapy is recommended since radioactive iodine suppresses the growth of thyroid cells. It is administered in the form of a liquid or a pill.

A lot of precaution needs to be taken for any treatment that involves radioactivity. This is specifically true for RAI treatment. These precautions can be extremely lengthy, tiresome and difficult to follow.

In most cases, the physician stops all traditional thyroid medication before the RAI treatment. The physician may also ask the patient to stop any natural thyroid medication that he may have been taking. In cases where hormonal supplements cannot be discontinued, the iodine levels in the body are reduced artificially by injecting recombinant TSH.

Patients are asked to adhere to a low iodine diet for nearly two weeks before the actual treatment. A low iodine diet does not mean a total ban on iodine. The American Thyroid Association recommends that a minimum of 50 mcg of iodine a day is acceptable even if a low iodine diet is being maintained.

The diet regulations are similar to those that are provided by alternative thyroid treatments. These diets that are prepared especially for those who have a malfunctioning thyroid ensure that the specific items listed on the diet chart allow only the recommended levels of iodine.

Patients should increase their consumption of these foods:

  • Fruits
  • Raw or freshly cooked vegetables
  • Unsalted nuts

Patients should limit their consumption or avoid these foods:

  • Meats
  • Grains, cereals, and rice
  • Iodized salt and sea salt
  • All seafood
  • Milk and milk products
  • Chocolates (cocoa and some other chocolates are permitted)
  • Soybeans and soy products (except soy oil and lecithin)

The radioactive iodine treatment (RAI) treatment is a simple outpatient procedure. The majority of the radioactive iodine is absorbed by the thyroid. Any unabsorbed radioactive iodine is discharged in the next couple of days through urine, feces, saliva and sweat. Certain precautions are necessary to ensure the safety of those that come in contact with the patient:

  • Keep away from children and pregnant women for at least eight days.
  • Do not let any one come closer than 3 feet for more than one hour in a day. This precaution needs to be taken for the first five days.
  • Flush the toilet more than once after every use.
  • Take extra care of personal hygiene. Men have to take extra care to avoid any spill over while urinating.
  • Nursing women need to stop breast feeding totally.
  • Doctor’s consultation is necessary before starting a pregnancy.

Even though the process involved in this thyroid treatment is simple, hospitalization may be required in some cases. This becomes necessary if there is an infant at home who needs to be protected from contamination. Patients are generally kept in isolation until the hospital is satisfied with regards to all safety concerns. All communication with staff and visitors is through an intercom.


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