Find us on Social Media:

Radioactive Iodine Treatment
What is it? Overview Usage Side Effects and Warnings

Radioactive Iodine Treatment Overview

Written by FoundHealth.


Radioactive iodine treatment is used to treat certain thyroid diseases and thyroid cancer. The procedure is done with a radioactive form of the element iodine. Radioactive iodine is taken up by the thyroid gland, where it treats disease by destroying the cells. However, the radioactivity is not spread to other parts of the body.

The Thyroid Gland
The Thyroid Gland
© 2009 Nucleus Medical Art, Inc.

What to Expect

Prior to Procedure

  • If advised by your doctor, eat a special diet. Your doctor may want you on a special low iodine diet prior to the procedure. This may help your procedure to be more successful.
  • Talk to your doctor about your medicines. Some thyroid hormone medicine should be discontinued four weeks before the procedure. Other medicines used to treat hyperthyroidism (eg, propothyouracil , methimazole ) should be discontinued 5-7 days before the procedure.
  • For two hours before the procedure, do not eat or drink anything. Water may be allowed.
  • If you are a woman of childbearing age, the doctor will do a pregnancy test.

Description of the Procedure

You will be given some tablets that contain radioactive iodine. You will swallow the tablets. The iodine will be naturally taken up by the thyroid.

How Long Will It Take?

At least an hour

Will It Hurt?

The treatment is painless.

Postoperative Care

Any radioactive iodine that is not taken up directly by the thyroid will be passed through the urine. Be sure to follow your doctor's instructions , which may include:

  • Do not eat any solid foods for at least two hours following the treatment. Drink a lot of clear liquids (water or juice).
  • For the first 8-12 hours following treatment, use the bathroom every hour. This will help flush the excess iodine from your body.
  • Limit your contact with others. Do not enter a room with any infants or children in it. Stay at least three feet away from other adults. Do not stay near any other adult for more than a few minutes. Do not share a bed with anyone for 48 hours following the treatment.
  • Do not share any food, drink, or dishes with anyone for the first week. Do not allow your saliva to come into contact with anyone. Avoid kissing and sexual contact.
  • Flush the toilet twice after use.
  • Wash hands often and thoroughly.
  • Resume normal thyroid medicines 48 hours after the treatment.

The majority of people who undergo the treatment will have their thyroid levels return to normal within 8-12 weeks. However, in a small number of patients, a second dose of radioactive iodine treatment is needed.

A follow-up visit with your doctor will be scheduled 4-6 weeks after treatment. Radioactive active iodine treatment can cause hypothyroidism (low thyroid function). This can occur at any time after treatment. Your doctor will need to check your thyroid status every few months until levels are stable.



American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists

Endocrine Society


Health Canada

Thyroid Foundation of Canada


Cronin C, Wendt C. Radioactive iodine for hyperthyroidism. PeaceHealth website. Available at: . Accessed May 28, 2007.

Effects of low-iodide diet on postsurgical radioiodide ablation therapy in patients with differentiated thyroid carcinoma. Clin Endocrinol (Oxf). 2003;58(4):428-435.

Instructions for receiving radioactive iodine for hyperthyroidism. University of Washington Medical Center website. Available at: . Accessed May 28, 2007.

Radioactive iodine use for thyroid diseases. American Thyroid Association website. Available at: . Accessed May 28, 2007.

Rivkees SA, Dinauer C: An optimal treatment for pediatric Graves’ disease is radioiodine. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2007; 92:797-800



No one has made any comments yet. Be the first!

Your Comment