Purpose: Radiation therapy (RT) for left-sided breast cancer has been associated with cardiac dysfunction. We herein assess the temporal nature and volume dependence of RT-induced left ventricular perfusion defects and whether these perfusion defects are related to changes in cardiac wall motion or alterations in ejection fraction.
Methods: From 1998 to 2001, 114 patients were enrolled onto an IRB-approved prospective clinical study to assess changes in regional and global cardiac function after RT for left-sided breast cancer. Patients were imaged 30 to 60 minutes after injection of technetium 99m sestamibi or tetrofosmin. Post-RT perfusion scans were compared with the pre-RT studies to assess for RT-induced perfusion defects as well as functional changes in wall motion and ejection fraction. Two-tailed Fisher's exact test and the Cochran-Armitage test for linear trends were used for statistical analysis.
Results: The incidence of new perfusion defects 6, 12, 18, and 24 months after RT was 27%, 29%, 38%, and 42%, respectively. New defects occurred in approximately 10% to 20% and 50% to 60% of patients with less than 5%, and greater than 5%, of their left ventricle included within the RT fields, respectively (p = 0.33 to 0.00008). The rates of wall motion abnormalities in patients with and without perfusion defects were 12% to 40% versus 0% to 9%, respectively; p values were 0.007 to 0.16, depending on the post-RT interval.
Conclusions: Radiation therapy causes volume-dependent perfusion defects in approximately 40% of patients within 2 years of RT. These perfusion defects are associated with corresponding wall-motion abnormalities. Additional study is necessary to better define the long-term functional consequences of RT-induced perfusion defects.