RAI Precautions and Side Effects | The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia

Pediatric Thyroid Center

Radioactive Iodine Precautions and Side Effects

There are both regulatory (by-law) and medical precautions to using radioactive iodine (RAI).

Regulatory precautions

The regulatory precautions are regulated by each state. They dictate if treatment can be performed in the outpatient setting or if the patient needs to be admitted to the Hospital and placed under radioactive precautions. Prior to leaving the Hospital, the nuclear medicine department and your thyroid treatment team will discuss the precautions and review ways to decrease the side effects and risks of exposure after receiving radioactive iodine.

Medical precautions

The medical precautions are for the caregiver and family as well as the patient. Since I-131 produces radiation, patients must do their best to avoid radiation exposure to others, particularly to pregnant women and small children. Medical precautions will be given to you during the "pre-ablation" or "pre-RAI treatment" appointment. These precautions are very specific and should be followed as closely as possible to reduce potential exposure to others and to decrease the likelihood of short- and long-term medical complications associated with RAI.

Side effects of RAI treatment

All medical treatments have side effects; RAI is no different. In previous years, the goal of therapy was to get rid of all thyroid cancer cells no matter the total dose of RAI. With increased awareness of the potential risks associated with RAI, the current approach attempts to more carefully balance the risks and benefits of treatment.

RAI therapy is associated with short- and long-term medical risks, including:

The Pediatric Thyroid Center at CHOP is committed to determining which patients will or will not benefit from RAI therapy. You, the patient and family, are important members of the treatment team. Be informed and be involved. Know the risks and the benefits of the treatment being recommended and the expertise of the center providing your care. The potential risks of complications decrease if you receive care in a center dedicated to the care of pediatric patients with thyroid disease.

Ongoing care and research at CHOP

Learn about our commitment to thyroid disease research and finding new treatments.

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