Nuclear medicine - what patients need to know

» How do doses and risk from nuclear medicine compare to X rays?

Most diagnostic investigations in nuclear medicine expose the patient to a small dose of radiation similar to that received in an X-ray.

» Are there special precautions I need to take after my diagnostic nuclear medicine procedure?

After a diagnostic nuclear medicine procedure, you will be slightly radioactive for a limited time, but in general you will not be considered a hazard to carers or hospital staff.

» What are the safety measures for radioactive patients after a radioisotope treatment?

Most countries regulate the use of radioisotopes to treat patients. The regulations often require  special precautions for staff and visitors while such patients are in hospital, and  for patients when they leave the hospital or return to work [ see link and patient information sheet for iodine-131 for download]. Hospital staff brief patients on safety.

» Can a young person undergo radioiodine treatment for thyrotoxicosis?

Radioiodine may be given to patients of any age but it is less frequently given to children under 10. Long term follow-up of children who have been treated with radioiodine (I-131) for Graves’ disease has not shown any adverse effects such as thyroid cancer, leukaemia or congenital malformation in subsequent offspring.

» How long after radioiodine treatment is it safe to become pregnant or father a child?

Women are recommended to avoid pregnancy for at least 6 months following radioiodine treatment. Men are advised to avoid fathering a child for several months following radioiodine therapy.

» Can I breastfeed following radioiodine treatment?

Breast feeding must stop before starting radioiodine treatment as there is a risk of damaging the infant’s thyroid causing permanent hypothyroidism and increasing the risk of thyroid cancer.