Neurologic complications of radiation therapy

Neurol Clin. 2003 Feb;21(1):249-77. doi: 10.1016/s0733-8619(02)00031-2.


Injury to the central and peripheral nervous systems is an increasingly frequent consequence of standard radiation treatment protocols for tumors involving or adjacent to nervous system structures. Characteristic temporal, clinical, radiographic, and laboratory features distinguish a number of specific radiation injury syndromes, but meticulous and repeated evaluations over time are often required to establish a diagnosis. These syndromes vary with regard to prognosis and therapeutic options, and competing diagnoses with very different natural histories and therapies often mask or mimic the signs and symptoms of radiation-related nervous system injury. The ability to efficiently negotiate this complicated differential diagnostic landscape allows for early diagnosis of tumor recurrence or an alternative etiology, prompt institution of appropriate therapy, avoidance of unnecessary diagnostic studies, and confident prognostication for patients and families. Even after the diagnosis of a radiation-related complication is made, continued vigilance for additional sites or manifestations of radiation injury is mandatory. Meanwhile, further research into treatment, prevention, and the causes of individual susceptibility to radiation injury are essential.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biopsy
  • Brain Diseases / etiology*
  • Brain Diseases / pathology
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Radiation Injuries / etiology*
  • Radiation Injuries / pathology
  • Radiotherapy / adverse effects*