Purpose: External radiation therapy for brain tumors exposes healthy areas of brain to considerable doses of radiation. This may cause cognitive and psychological impairment, which indicate neuronal dysfunction. 1H-magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS) was used to study brain metabolites in the adjacent regions 0.5-13 years after exposure to therapeutic irradiation.
Methods and materials: Eight patients with irradiated brain tumors were examined by means of in vivo 1H-MRS using a point-resolved spectroscopy (PRESS) sequence with echo times of 60 or 270 ms. The metabolites were quantified by using brain water concentration as internal reference. The volume of interest (VOI) was positioned in irradiated brain areas excluding, however, scar and recurrent tumor. The respective radiation doses were measured based on radiation therapy plans, simulator films, and localization MR images.
Results: The concentration of the neuron-specific metabolite N-acetyl-L-aspartate (NAA) was 13.2 +/- 1.4 mmol/l in controls, whereas it was reduced in the brains of treated patients to 8.6 +/- 0.9 mmol/l (total radiation dose 59-62 Gy). Concentrations of creatine and choline-containing compounds were unchanged. The T2 of water was longer in irradiated than in unexposed brain areas.
Conclusion: Therapeutic brain irradiation causes neuronal damage, which is reflected by reduction of N-acetyl-L-aspartate (NAA) concentrations. 1H-MRS could serve clinically as a means of evaluating adverse effects in the central nervous system, enabling intervention and rehabilitation.