Aim: Myocardial perfusion scintigraphy (MPS) is one of the widely used tools to follow developing radiation-induced heart disease (RIHD). But the clinical significance of MPS defects has not been fully understood. We have investigated the biodistribution alterations related to perfusion defects following radiotherapy (RT) and showed coexisting morphologic changes.
Animals, methods: A total of 18 Wistar rats were divided into three groups (1 control and 2 irradiated groups). A single cardiac 20 Gy radiation dose was used to induce long term cardiac defects. Biodistribution studies with technetium (99mTc) sestamibi and histological evaluations were performed 4 and 6 months after irradiation. The percent radioactivity (%ID/g) was calculated for each heart. For determination of the myocardial damage, positive apoptotic cardiomyocytes, myocardial cell degeneration, myocardial fibrosis, vascular damage and ultrastructural structures were evaluated.
Results: Six months after treatment, a significant drop of myocardial uptake was observed (p < 0.05). Irradiation-induced apoptosis rose within the first 4 months after radiation treatment and were stayed elevated until the end of the observation period (p < 0.05). Also, the irradiation has induced myocardial degeneration, perivascular and interstitial fibrosis in the heart at the end of six and four months (p < 0.01). The severity and extent of myocardial injury has became more evident at the end of six month (p < 0.05). At ultrastructural level, prominent changes have been observed in the capillary endothelial and myocardial cells.
Conclusion: Our findings suggest that the reduced rest myocardial perfusion, occurring months after the radiation, indicates a serious myocard tissue damage which is characterized by myocardial degeneration and fibrosis.