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The utility of SPECT lung perfusion scans in minimizing and assessing the physiologic consequences of thoracic irradiation

The utility of SPECT lung perfusion scans in minimizing and assessing the physiologic consequences of thoracic irradiation

International Journal of Radiation Oncology Biology Physics 26(4): 659-668

Purpose: Three-dimensional single photon emission computed tomography lung perfusion scans (SPECT) provide a unique quantitative 3-dimensional map of the distribution of functioning pulmonary vascular/alveolar subunits, information not provided by other imaging modalities. This report describes our initial experience utilizing these scans to assist in the design of radiation treatment beams and to assess changes in regional lung function following irradiation. Methods and Materials: Patients were immobilized and scanned in the treatment position with appropriate fiducial markers. Four millicuries of technetium 99M microaggregated albumin were injected and SPECT images of the lung were generated. Pre-treatment SPECT images were used to help design radiation beams to minimize irradiation of functioning lung. Pre- and post-treatment scans were compared to assess changes in regional function. These changes in function were then correlated with the regional radiation dose. Results: Pre-radiotherapy SPECT scans were obtained in 18 patients (11 with lung cancer). Marked variations in regional function were frequently noted. In patients with primary lung tumors, these variations were not necessarily immediately adjacent to the tumor volume. In general, patients with poor pulmonary function pre-treatment, in whom one would like to spare as much normal lung as possible, had the most non-uniform distribution throughout the lung of functioning vascular/alveolar subunits. In these cases, pre-treatment scans were most useful in designing radiation portals to minimize irradiation of functioning lung. SPECT scans were also used to detect changes in regional lung function secondary to radiotherapy in four patients. With doses in excess of 40 Gy, reductions in regional function were noted 1-6 months following completion of radiotherapy. These reductions were not necessarily accompanied by reductions in conventional pulmonary function tests, which are assessments of whole lung function and may not reflect regional lung injury if the volume affected is small. Conclusions: SPECT lung scans provide an excellent means of assessing regional lung function, superior to that obtainable with planar images. The functional data provided by the SPECT images is useful in designing "optimal" radiation treatment beams and in assessing the effect of radiotherapy on regional lung functions. Efforts are continuing in our laboratory to develop a dose response curve for regional lung damage using the tools of SPECT scanning and 3-dimensional dose calculations.

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Accession: 009636787

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PMID: 8330998

DOI: 10.1016/0360-3016(93)90285-4

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