A Radioactive Iodine Uptake Test (RAIU), also known as a Thyroid uptake Scan, is usually prescribed by a doctor that diagnoses thyroid diseases.
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Radioactive Iodine Therapy / Thyroid Uptake Scan Cost & Lab Details
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Frequently Asked Questions About Thyroid Uptake Scan
What is Radioactive Iodine Uptake Scan?
A Radioactive Iodine Uptake Test (RAIU), also known as a Thyroid uptake Scan, is usually prescribed by a doctor that diagnoses thyroid diseases. It is a measurement of thyroid function and does not include imaging.
This test measures the amount of radioactive iodine taken up by a person’s thyroid gland in a particular time period and shows how well the patient’s thyroid is functioning.
The scan is very similar to a thyroid scan, a type of nuclear medicine imaging, which lets one know the size, shape, and position of the gland.
The test uses a radioactive tracer and a distinct machine to measure how much tracer the thyroid gland absorbs from the blood. The radioactive tracer generally used in this test is iodine.
It is completely different from RAI therapy (Radioactive Iodine Treatment) and Thyroid Scan.
You can also read our blog on the Thyroid Scan in India to know more.
Your doctor may recommend a Radioactive Iodine Uptake Scan if you suffer from symptoms of an overactive thyroid, blood work which indicates an overactive thyroid, or an inflamed thyroid gland.
It may also be done to plan treatment for patients who have had thyroid cancer surgery.
The Radioactive Iodine uptake Test is important for your doctor to decide the future course of treatment. In certain cases, your doctor may ask you to also have a thyroid scan along with a Thyroid Uptake Scan.
The Radioactive Iodine Scan Test often is done along with a thyroid scan, which shows if the tracer is evenly spread in the gland.
How to prepare for Radioactive Iodine Uptake Test?
First and foremost, you will be asked to fast for six to eight hours before the test and you may need blood work to analyze how your thyroid is working around the time of the scan.
Before the test, you may also be asked to stop taking any kind of medicines, supplements, and foods which include iodine, as these could interfere with the test procedure.
Some vitamins and supplements contain thyroid. Additionally, foods and over-the-counter medications that contain red dye may also contain iodine. You will be asked to avoid all of these products for a week before your Thyroid Uptake Scan.
There are certain medications that may shoot up the amount of iodine absorbed by the thyroid. These include:
- Antithyroid drugs
- Iodine-based antiseptics
- A saturated solution of potassium iodide
- Thyroid drugs
Be sure to inform your doctor in case you are on any of the above medications. You may be asked to temporarily stop taking the medication in order to successfully carry out the scan.
Make sure you inform your doctor if you’ve had any X-Rays done which iodine-based contrast in the past couple of weeks. Disclosing this is important as this is likely to influence the results of your test. Also, be sure to tell your doctor if you’ve recently suffered from diarrhea, as it may affect your ability to absorb iodine.
Speak to your doctor in case you’ve ever suffered from serious allergic reactions (anaphylaxis) from any substance, such as the venom from a bee sting or from eating shellfish.
In case you are or could be pregnant or are breastfeeding, please inform your doctor. Just before the test, you will be asked to remove your dentures (if you wear them) and all jewelry or metal objects from around your neck and upper body.
After the entire procedure, you can resume your regular routine. However, it is important to know that the radioactive iodine flushes out of the body through urine and you may need to take certain precautions 24-48 hours after the test.
This includes flushing twice after urinating and washing your hands thoroughly after each time you urinate. You may further ask your doctor about precautions that have to be taken by you after the examination.
What is the procedure for Radioactive Iodine Uptake Test?
The thyroid is a gland in our neck which regulates our body’s metabolism by creating a hormone called thyroxine (T4) in reaction to a hormone called thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH). The thyroid gland absorbs iodine from our body to produce T4.
As part of the Thyroid Uptake Test, you will be asked to take a pill or liquid which contains a very little amount of radioactive iodine.
Once you swallow the pill, you will be asked to wait for the iodine to collect in the thyroid. The iodine will take time to make its way into the patient’s system so that the thyroid can absorb it.
You will be allowed to eat in an hour or two after swallowing the radioactive iodine. However, until the test is over, you will be asked to follow the same dietary restrictions as you were asked to in preparation for the test.
The first scan generally is done after 4-6 hours of the patient consuming the pill. There is then another scan done 24 hours later. During the scan, you will be asked to lie on your back, with your head tilted backward and your neck stretched.
It is important to lie still during this test as a lot of movement can produce blurry images. Then, a special machine called a Gamma Probe will be placed over your Thyroid Gland to measure the amount of tracer absorbed by the thyroid gland.
It moves back and forth, over the neck, where the thyroid gland is located. The probe detects the location and sharpness of the rays given off by the radioactive material.
A computer shows images of the thyroid gland and shows how much of this radioactive iodine is absorbed by the thyroid gland. This is a measure of how well your thyroid is functioning.
Each scan usually takes only about five minutes; however, you may be asked to sit for additional images if the ones taken first aren’t very clear.
Are there any risks associated with the Thyroid Uptake Scan?
There is little to no risk involved in this test as the dose of radiation used is small and not associated with any kind of dangerous side effects.
However, this test should not be taken in case you are or could be pregnant as the radioactive material could affect the developing fetus.
Also, if you are breastfeeding, make sure you inform your doctor in advance. Your doctor can use other means, such as blood work and physical exams, to screen your condition.
Convey your doctor if you are hypersensitive to iodine. This could hinder your ability to take this test.
There is very little chance of damage to your cells or tissues from radiation during the test procedure. But the chance of damage from the radiation is usually very low compared with the benefits of the test.
Before the examination, you may be asked to sign a consent form which says you understand the risks associated with the test and agree to have it done.
It is always advisable to talk to your doctor regarding your reservations about the test, its procedure, the risk involved, etc.
What are the possible interpretations of Radioactive Iodine Scan results?
Below mentioned are the normal results of the Radioactive Iodine Scan Test.
- At 6 hours: 3%- 16%
- At 24 hours: 8% – 25%
Higher than usual values may indicate an overactive thyroid gland, the most common cause of which is the Graves disease.
A few more conditions that can result in a higher than normal value are:
- An enlarged thyroid gland that contains nodules producing too much thyroid hormone
- An individual thyroid nodule producing too much thyroid hormone
Lower than usual values could be due to:
- Taking too much Thyroid medicines or supplements
- Iodine overload in the body
- Silent or painless Thyroiditis
- Inflammation of the Thyroid Gland
However, it is extremely important to consult a specialist as soon as you get the reports from your radiologist to determine the future course of treatment.