Transient metabolic changes observed with proton MR spectroscopy in normal human brain after radiation therapy

Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys. 1998 Jan 15;40(2):279-86. doi: 10.1016/s0360-3016(97)00714-1.


Purpose: To observe the time course of the proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy (1H-MRS) variations due to radiation therapy on normal human brain.

Methods and materials: We followed 11 patients receiving an exclusive external radiation therapy for brain tumor for 8 months. They underwent proton MRS scans before any radiation exposure and 1, 4, and 8 months after they began the radiation therapy. The patients received 60 Gy in tumoral area fractionated over 6 weeks. The contralateral normal brain hemisphere received a radiation dose from 20 to 50 Gy. The main metabolite concentrations (N-acetylaspartate (NAA), choline compounds (Cho), creatine (Cr), and lactate (Lac) were evaluated by the areas of the peaks after peak fitting. Normalized values (NV) were obtained by processing the ratio of the peak area of a given metabolite to the sum of all the spectrum peak areas; ratios (NAA/Cho, NAA/Cr, and Cho/Cr) were processed. One patient, who received panencephalic radiotherapy (30 Gy) after metastasectomy from a primary kidney adenocarcinoma, has been monitored with 1H-MRS eight times for 6 months to observe the onset of the metabolic changes.

Results: Changes were observed in irradiated normal brain tissue 4 months after radiation therapy began: the NAA/Cho and NAA/Cr ratios and the NAA (NV) decreased while the Choline (NV) increased. Four months later, normal values were recovered.

Conclusion: 1H-MRS has the potentiality to detect and to evaluate in vivo early adverse metabolic effects of radiation therapy in the normal human brain. These changes are significant 4 months after the radiation therapy began and appear to resolve over time.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aspartic Acid / analogs & derivatives
  • Aspartic Acid / metabolism
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Brain / radiation effects*
  • Brain Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Brain Neoplasms / radiotherapy*
  • Choline / metabolism
  • Creatine / metabolism
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lactic Acid / metabolism
  • Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Radiation Injuries / metabolism*


  • Aspartic Acid
  • Lactic Acid
  • N-acetylaspartate
  • Creatine
  • Choline