Purpose: To report on rectal dosimetric and toxicity outcomes of intermediate and high-risk prostate cancer patients undergoing combined high-dose-rate (HDR) brachytherapy and external beam radiotherapy (EBRT) with or without hydrogel spacer (HS) insertion.
Material and methods: A total of 97 patients were analyzed in this study, with 32 patients (33%) who had HS insertion compared with a preceding group of 65 patients (67%) without HS. HS safety, the dosimetric effects on organs at risk (rectal, urethral, penile bulb, and bladder) as well as gastrointestinal (GI) and genitourinary toxicity were evaluated and compared between the two groups.
Results: The median prostate-rectal separation achieved with HS was 10 mm (range, 5-14 mm). There were no post-operative complications following HS insertion. Patients with HS had significantly lower radiation dose to the rectum across all rectal dose volumes from rV30 to rV80, whether in absolute volume (cc) or as percentage of contoured OAR (p < 0.001). There was also significantly less acute > grade 1 GI toxicity (12.5% vs. 30.8%, p = 0.05) and a trend towards less late grade 1 GI toxicity (0% vs. 7.7%; p = 0.11) in the HS group compared to the non-HS group.
Conclusions: Insertion of HS in prostate cancer patients receiving combined HDR and EBRT is safe and has resulted in a significant radiation dose reduction to the rectum, resulting in significantly less acute GI toxicity and a trend towards less late GI toxicity.
Keywords: brachytherapy; high-dose-rate; hydrogel spacer; prostate cancer; rectal protection.