Effect of prior radiopharmaceutical administration on Schilling test performance: Analysis and recommendations

Lionel S. Zuckier, Michael Stabin, Borys R. Krynyckyi, Pat Zanzonico, Barbara Binkert

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Previously administered diagnostic and therapeutic radiopharmaceuticals may interfere with performance of the Schilling test for prolonged periods of time. Additionally, presence of confounding radionuclides in the urine may not be suspected if baseline urine measurements have not been performed before the examination. Methods: We assumed that a spurious contribution of counts corresponding to 1% of the administered Schilling dose would begin to contribute clinically significant interference. Based on the typical amounts of radiopharmaceuticals administered, spectra of commonly used radionuclides and best available pharmacokinetic models of biodistribution and excretion, we estimated the interval required for 24-hr urinary excretion of diagnostic and therapeutic radiopharmaceuticals to drop below this threshold of significant interference. Results: For previously administered 99mTc- based radiopharmaceuticals and 123I-Nal, the interval required for urinary levels of activity to fall below thresholds of allowable interference are between 2-5 days. For 67Ga-citrate, several 111In compounds, 131I- MIBG and 201Tl-thallous chloride, periods of 12-44 days are estimated. Estimates for 131I-Nal vary greatly between 4 and 115 days, depending on the amount administered, and the degree of thyroid uptake. Conclusion: Patients should be interviewed before performing the Schilling test to ensure that interfering radiopharmaceuticals have not been recently administered. The estimates developed in this paper can serve as guidelines for the necessary waiting time between prior radiopharmaceutical administration and the Schilling examination.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1995-1999
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Nuclear Medicine
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 1 1996


  • Schilling test
  • radiopharmaceuticals

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging


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