BACKGROUND A prospective study was conducted to evaluate the use of iodine-131 sodium scintigraphy, thallium-201 chloride scintigraphy, and quantitative serum thyroglobulin estimation in the detection of differentiated thyroid carcinoma after thyroidectomy and iodine-131 sodium ablative therapy. METHODS Thirty-one patients with a median age of 45.6 years (range, 20-73 years) were included in the study. After optimal endogenous thyroid-stimulating hormone stimulation (> 50 mU/ml), 53 pairs of iodine-131 and thallium-201 scans were performed. Concomitant serum thyroglobulin levels were available for 32 pairs of scans. The presence or absence of thyroid cancer was established by clinical, radiologic, and/or biopsy findings. RESULTS The concordance between iodine-131 and thallium-201 scan findings in the presence of disease (25 scan sets) was 36%. The concordance in the absence of disease (28 scan sets) was 82%. Iodine-131 scanning was found to be significantly better (P < 0.05) than thallium-201 scanning, in terms of sensitivity (0.8 versus 0.6), specificity (0.96 versus 0.82), accuracy (0.89 versus 0.72), and the predictive value of a positive test (0.95 versus 0.75). The measurement of serum thyroglobulin had a low sensitivity (0.3) in the study but had a specificity of 1.0. CONCLUSION It was concluded that iodine-131 sodium scintigraphy is superior to thallium-201 scintigraphy and serum thyroglobulin estimation for the detection of residual or metastatic differentiated thyroid carcinoma. However, the use of combined modalities provides a higher diagnostic yield. Thallium-201 scintigraphy was especially useful in cases in which iodine-131 scintigraphy was negative and quantitative thyroglobulin levels were elevated.