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Thyroid Ablation


  • Thyroid ablation is a procedure done to decrease the function of some, or all of your thyroid gland. Thyroid ablation is usually done with a medicine called radioactive iodine (RAI). Your thyroid gland is at the lower, front part of your neck, and is butterfly shaped. Your thyroid gland makes hormones, and controls your metabolism which helps give you energy. A very active thyroid gland (thyrotoxicosis) and too much thyroid hormone (hyperthyroidism) may need thyroid ablation as treatment. Other medical problems that may need thyroid ablation are thyroid nodules (lumps) and thyroid cancer. Having ablation after surgery for thyroid cancer may be needed to get rid of any thyroid gland left. It may also be needed if thyroid cancer has spread to other areas of the body.
  • For thyroid ablation you will take RAI as a pill or liquid. RAI may be given through your vein (IV) if you cannot take a pill or liquid. You may need to change your diet and have blood, urine, and other tests done before your procedure. After thyroid ablation, you may need to take thyroid medicines for the rest of your life. More than one RAI treatment may be needed. Repeat treatments are usually at least three months apart. You may need to stay in the hospital after your procedure, or you may be able to go home. You may need to follow safety rules to keep others safe from the radiation in your body.


Take your medicine as directed.

Call your healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell him if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency.

  • Antinausea medicine: This medicine may be given to calm your stomach and to stop you from vomiting (throwing up).
  • Laxatives: This medicine may be given to help you have a bowel movement. Bowel movements will help decrease the amount of radiation in your body. You need to have at least one bowel movement daily after your procedure.
  • Thyroid hormone: You may need this medicine to increase your thyroid hormone level if it goes too low.

Follow-up visit information:

You may need imaging tests done after your thyroid ablation to check for any returning thyroid disease. You may need a whole body scan to check for RAI collection in other tissues of your body. If you have thyroid cancer, these tests can tell caregivers if the cancer has spread. This may be done up to one week after your procedure, and again in 6 to 12 months. Keep all appointments. Write down any questions you may have. This way you will remember to ask these questions during your next visit.

Drinking liquids:

Men 19 years old and older should drink about 3.0 Liters of liquid each day (close to 13 eight-ounce cups). Women 19 years old and older should drink about 2.2 Liters of liquid each day (close to 9 eight-ounce cups). After your procedure, you will need to increase how much fluid you drink. Drinking fluids will help decrease the amount of radiation in your body.

Increasing your saliva:

Saliva may help lower your risk for infection after thyroid ablation. Sour candy, lemon juice, and chewing gum can be used to increase your saliva.

Mouth care:

Keeping your mouth clean may help prevent infection. You may need to use special mouthwash to decrease your risk of mouth problems. Using a fluoride toothpaste may help decrease your risk of dental cavities. Follow your caregiver's instructions on mouth care after your procedure.

Pregnancy and breast-feeding for females:

After your thyroid ablation, you may need to wait 6 to 12 months before getting pregnant. You should not breast-feed after your procedure. Radiation may stay in your breast tissue for a period of time. This may be passed on to your child. You should not breast-feed after thyroid ablation until after your next pregnancy. Talk to your caregiver if you have concerns about pregnancy and breast-feeding after your procedure.

Quit smoking:

It is never too late to quit smoking. Smoking increases your risk of having problems after your thyroid ablation. Smoking also harms the heart, lungs, and the blood. You are more likely to have a heart attack, lung disease, and cancer if you smoke. You will help yourself and those around you by not smoking. Ask your caregiver for more information about how to stop smoking if you are having trouble quitting.

Radiation safety:

Ask your caregiver for a special letter about your procedure if you plan to get on an airplane. This letter tells others that you have had thyroid ablation. This is needed because you may set off the security alarms in the airport that check for chemicals. Follow your caregiver's instructions on how to keep others safe from the radiation in your body. You may need to spend less time in certain areas where others are. The amount of time you spend in one place, increases the risk of giving radiation to others. The following may also help keep others safe from the radiation inside your body:

  • Flush the toilet 2 to 3 times after going to the bathroom. This may help lower the amount of radiation in the toilet bowel.
  • Stay at least 6 to 7 feet away from others for 2 to 3 days after your procedure.
  • Sleep in a different room than your partner for 2 to 3 days after your procedure.

Salivary gland massage:

This can be done for blocked or infected salivary glands after thyroid ablation. Massaging your jaw area will cause the glands to make saliva (spit). The saliva will help move germs out, and may help decrease pain and swelling.


  • You are not able to see as well.
  • You feel very tired and are not able to do things you enjoy.
  • You have a fever or chills.
  • You have a white covering on your tongue.
  • You have increased nausea or vomiting.
  • Your heart beat (pulse) is more than 100 beats per minute.
  • You have questions or concerns about your procedure, treatment, or care.


  • The pain and swelling in your face or neck is worse.
  • You have not had a bowel movement for more than one day.
  • You suddenly are not urinating, even after drinking a lot of liquids.
  • You suddenly have trouble breathing.
  • One side of your face feels numb or sags.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.