Clinical and immunologic effects of fractionated total lymphoid irradiation in refractory rheumatoid arthritis

N Engl J Med. 1981 Oct 22;305(17):976-82. doi: 10.1056/NEJM198110223051703.


Ten patients with refractory rheumatoid arthritis were given 3000 rad of fractionated total lymphoid irradiation in an uncontrolled therapeutic trial. Total lymphoid irradiation was associated with objective evidence of considerable clinical improvement in eight patients and with reduced blood lymphocyte counts in all 10. On completion of irradiation, there was an abrogation of lymphocyte reactivity in vitro in the patients with clinical responses, but abnormal antibody activities characteristic of rheumatoid arthritis and normal components of humoral immunity were not suppressed. Partial recrudescence of arthritis occurred shortly after a year after the completion of irradiation and was paralleled by a restitution of lymphocyte concentrations and responsiveness to mitogens to levels similar to those observed before irradiation. These data provide further evidence of T-cell involvement in the pathogenesis of rheumatoid arthritis and demonstrate that total lymphoid irradiation can induce temporary relief, but they do not ascertain whether the natural history of this disease was altered.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Antibody Formation / radiation effects
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / immunology
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / physiopathology
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / radiotherapy*
  • Chronic Disease
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Leukocyte Count
  • Lymph Nodes / radiation effects*
  • Lymphocyte Activation / radiation effects
  • Lymphocytes / radiation effects
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Radiotherapy Dosage