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131-I MIBG treatment


I-131 MIBG therapy is a treatment for neuroblastoma, pheochromocytoma and paraganglioglioma. I-131 MIBG stands for Iodine 131 metaiodobenzylguanidine. It is an IV dose of radioactive iodine (I-131) that is attached to MIBG, which directly targets neuroblastoma cells. The substance destroys the cancer cells while generally sparing normal, healthy tissue.  Potential side effects include low blood counts, which may require a "rescue" autologous stem cell infusion, and low thyroid function.

Traditionally, this treatment has been given to patients with disease that has either relapsed following standard therapy or has not responded to treatment. Children's Hospital now offers this as an initial treatment as part of a clinical trial for some patients with more aggressive neuroblastoma. Vanderbilt is one of only 15 centers in the US able to provide this treatment.

What to expect with 131-I MIBG treatment

The I-131 MIBG emits radiation. Once the patient receives the infusion, which takes about 90 minutes, they become radioactive, which means he or she emits or “gives off” radiation. After receiving the treatment, the I-131 MIBG is eliminated through the urine over several days. The patient must remain in the hospital for three to five days.

The I-131 MIBG moves into other bodily fluids such as saliva and the oils secreted by the skin. There will be trace amounts of radioactive material left wherever the patient’s skin touches. Because of the high level of radiation being given off, the child must stay in a special lead-lined room.

Parents act as the primary caregivers, outfitted in hospital clothing to help protect against radiation. An anteroom provides further protection. Two-way cameras allow interaction with their child. Nurses enter only briefly to avoid overexposure from caring for multiple patients.

Room preparation

Most room surfaces will be covered with plastic to keep the radiation from adhering to permanent fixtures. Large lead shields surround the bed to help contain the radiation coming from the patient’s body.

Parents and caregivers must wear gowns, gloves and shoe covers when entering the room. There are many restrictions on hospital staff and visitors.

The room is equipped with cameras, microphones and monitors to allow for audio and visual communication between the patient and the staff, parents and visitors.

While waiting for the radiation to clear, the patient can watch TV and movies, play with a Wii and an iPad and listen to music. Our dedicated Child Life Specialist meets with every patient to learn what they are interested in so that she can help keep them occupied with toys, crafts and art supplies.

If you would like more information about this therapy, call (615) 936-6989.


2200 Children's Way, 6th Floor
Nashville, TN 37232
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