Pilocarpine effect on dose rate of salivary gland in differentiated thyroid carcinoma patients treated with radioiodine

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Although different methods have been suggested on reducing salivary gland radiation after radioiodine administration, an effective preventive or therapeutic measure is still up for debate. The aim of this study was to evaluate the effect of pilocarpine, as a sialagogue drug on the radioiodine content of the salivary gland, and radioiodine-induced symptoms of salivary gland dysfunction.

Patients and methods

Patients who were referred for radioiodine therapy were randomized into pilocarpine and placebo groups. The patients as well as the nurse who administered the tablets, and the specialist who analyzed the images, were all unaware of the patients’ group. Anterior and posterior planar images including that of both the head and neck were obtained 2, 6, 12, 24, and 48 h after the administration of radioiodine in all patients, and round regions of interest were drawn for both left and right parotid glands, with a rectangular region of interest in the region of the cerebrum as background. All patients were interrogated once, 6 months after radioiodine administration, by a phone call for subjective evaluation of symptoms related to salivary gland damage.


There was no significant difference between the two groups with regard to the mean age, sex, and initial iodine activity. The geometric mean of background-corrected count per administered dose and acquisition time was calculated for the bilateral parotid glands. This normalized parotid count showed a significant reduction in net parotid count in both groups during the first 48 h after radioiodine administration. However, no significant difference was found between the groups according to the amount and pattern of dose reduction in this time period.


This study revealed that pilocarpine had no significant effect on the radioiodine content of parotid glands during the first 48 h after radioiodine administration. No significant difference was found in the incidence of symptoms between the two groups treated with placebo and pilocarpine.

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