Adverse effects of brain irradiation correlated with MR and CT imaging

Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys. 1988 Aug;15(2):319-30. doi: 10.1016/s0360-3016(98)90011-6.


Forty-one patients treated for primary malignancies of the brain at the University of Rochester Cancer Center since 1970 were assessed for adverse effects of irradiation clinically, and by computerized tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance (MR) imaging. At diagnosis, patients ranged in age from 1-65 years (median 19 years) and the most common tumor (in 30) was astrocytoma. Radiation doses ranged from 45 to 81.3 Gy (median 56.8 Gy). White matter changes visible on MR were graded on a scale of 1-4, with grades 1-2 known to occur in some normal patients. Areas of increased signal intensity not associated with the tumor or surgery were visible in all patients (gr 1 = 37%, gr 2 = 32%, gr 3 = 17%, gr 4 = 15%) whereas only 35% had regions of abnormality (hypodensity) on CT. Sulci enlargement and ventricular abnormalities (asymmetry or dilatation) were present in approximately 50% of patients by each technique. Higher grade MR lesions were associated with radiation to large volumes and high doses. For the 36 patients treated with 1.5-2.0 Gy daily fractions, the mean radiation dose by grade was as follows: gr 1 = 55.1 Gy, gr 2 = 58.8 Gy, gr 3 = 60.0 Gy, gr 4 = 63.5 Gy. All 5 patients treated on a hyperfractionated schedule had gr 1-2 changes despite receiving greater than 70 Gy. Fifty percent of patients treated to the whole brain (+/- boost) had gr 3-4 changes, compared with 14% treated with local fields (peak dose regions similar in both groups). Among the children (less than or equal to 13 years), 20% had gr 3-4 changes compared with 56% of adults (excluding hyperfractionated patients). This finding may be due entirely or in part to the lower radiation doses used for children (mean 54.4 Gy vs. 63.7 Gy in adults). Clinical abnormalities attributable to irradiation included an impairment in mental functioning in 7 adults, and learning disabilities in 5 children. Five of these adults (71%) had gr 3-4 changes on MR as compared to gr 3-4 changes in 29% of the remaining adult group. Five patients developed seizure disorders. We conclude that adverse effects of brain irradiation are more sensitively imaged by MR than CT and that these abnormalities are associated with larger treatment volumes and either (or both) higher doses or older age. Conversely, some patients treated with high radiation doses have unremarkable changes on MR, and others have severe white matter changes which are not clinically expressed.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)

MeSH terms

  • Astrocytoma / radiotherapy
  • Brain / diagnostic imaging
  • Brain / pathology
  • Brain / radiation effects*
  • Brain Neoplasms / radiotherapy*
  • Female
  • Glioblastoma / radiotherapy
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Male
  • Radiation Injuries / diagnosis
  • Radiation Injuries / diagnostic imaging
  • Radiotherapy / adverse effects*
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed*