Current safety practices relating to I-131 administration for diseases of the thyroid: A survey of physicians and allied practitioners

Carol Greenlee, Lynn A. Burmeister, Robert S. Butler, Charlotte H. Edinboro, Shannon Mc Intyre Morrison, Mira Milas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Background: There is little information about the individual safety instructions provided by healthcare professionals to patients receiving radioactive iodine (I-131) therapy for the treatment of benign and malignant thyroid disorders or about whether these instructions are consistent across medical specialties. Currently, no national guidelines exist to standardize safety instructions related to I-131 administration. Here, we examine the spectrum of I-131 safety practices in contemporary use. Methods: Members of major societies of physicians and allied specialists who treat patients with thyroid disorders were invited to complete a 27-question online survey about safety practices related to I-131 administration. Data from questionnaires were analyzed by type of safety recommendation and grouped according to provider specialty and geographic location. Results: A total of 311 endocrinologists, surgeons, nuclear medicine radiologists, and allied health professionals completed questionnaires. They indicated that patients often receive instruction from more than one treating specialist. The decision to hospitalize a patient for treatment and the length of stay were determined by the patient's social situation and the dose of I-131 administered. Starting at I-131 doses between 259 and 1073 MBq (7 and 29 mCi), over 60% of respondents advised avoiding contact with children, sexual activity, and breastfeeding, with the latter recommendation continuing beyond 48 hours after treatment. Personal hygiene, laundry, and meal preparation precautions varied across respondents. Over 90% of respondents used serum or urine testing to screen for pregnancy status. Precautions to delay parenthood were given more often to female than male patients (90% vs. 60%), with a minimum recommended delay of 6 months. About 20% of respondents considered insurance coverage as a factor in selecting outpatient versus inpatient I-131 therapy, and this consideration varied geographically. Conclusion: A wide variety of safety recommendations are given to patients who receive I-131. To our knowledge, this survey represents the first organized inquiry into safety practices related to I-131 administration. The diversity of responses suggests an opportunity for multispecialty collaboration in defining more uniform recommendations for patient safety instructions during and after I-131 treatment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)151-160
Number of pages10
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2011


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