Radiation Fibrosis Syndrome: the Evergreen Menace of Radiation Therapy

Asia Pac J Oncol Nurs. 2019 Jul-Sep;6(3):238-245. doi: 10.4103/apjon.apjon_71_18.


Fibrosis is a descriptive appellation referring to the obliteration of normal tissue components replaced by matrix and disorganized and varied collagen fibrils that result in the loss of organ function and frequent tissue contraction leading to death or significant deterioration in the quality of life. Radiation fibrosis syndrome (RFS) is a progressive fibrotic tissue sclerosis with various clinical symptoms in the irradiation field. It is usually a late complication of radiation therapy and may occur weeks or even years after treatment. It may affect the musculoskeletal, soft tissue, neural tissue, and cardiopulmonary systems. RFS is a serious and lifelong disorder that, nevertheless, may often be prevented when identified and rehabilitated early. Genetic factors likely play a significant role in the development of chronic fibrotic response to radiation injury that persists even after the initial insult is no longer present. Management of this syndrome is a complex process comprising medication, education, rehabilitation, and physical and occupational therapy. A bibliographical search was carried out in PubMed using the following keywords: "radiation fibrosis," "radiation fibrosis syndrome," and "radiation-induced fibrosis." We also reviewed the most relevant and recent series on the current management of RFS, and the reviewed data are discussed in this article. This review discusses the pathophysiology, evaluation, and treatment of neuromuscular, musculoskeletal, and functional disorders as late effects of radiation treatment.

Keywords: Ionizing radiation; radiation fibrosis syndrome; radiotherapy.

Publication types

  • Review