Purpose: In several of the initial patients undergoing brachytherapy at our institution radioactive implants were visible in the thorax on chest radiography. The clinical ramifications of this unanticipated finding were unclear. Thus, we investigated the incidence of brachytherapy seed migration to the chest and whether these seeds were associated with any clinical significance.
Materials and methods: We retrospectively reviewed the records of all patients who underwent ultrasound or computerized tomography guided brachytherapy of 103palladium seeds from March 1997 to March 1999. This list of patients on brachytherapy was then matched against the radiology computer system to determine those who had undergone chest X-ray after brachytherapy. When the radiology report was unclear regarding brachytherapy seeds, chest x-rays were reviewed by one of us (R. O.) to determine the presence and position of the seeds.
Results: Post-brachytherapy chest x-rays were available in 110 of the 183 patients. In 78 cases no brachytherapy seeds were identified. Radioactive implants were identified on chest radiography in 32 patients (29%), including 1 to 5 seeds in 20, 8, 1, 2 and 1, respectively. No patients complained of any change in pulmonary symptoms after brachytherapy.
Conclusions: Radioactive implants migrated after brachytherapy for localized prostate cancer in 29% of the patients who underwent post-procedure radiography. There did not appear to be a pattern to the seed distribution. However, while the incidence was not negligible, no patient appeared to have any acute pulmonary symptoms. Therefore, while the migration of radioactive implants to the chest is a real phenomenon, it appears to have no adverse clinical consequences in the early post-procedure period.