Parotid gland sparing in patients undergoing bilateral head and neck irradiation: techniques and early results.
PURPOSE: To minimize xerostomia in patients receiving bilateral head and neck irradiation (RT) by using conformal RT planning to spare a significant volume of one parotid gland from radiation. METHODS AND MATERIALS: The study involved 15 patients with head and neck tumors in whom bilateral neck radiation was indicated. The major salivary glands and the targets (tumor, surgical bed, metastases to lymph nodes, and the locations of lymph nodes at risk for metastases) were outlined on axial computed tomography images. Beam's-eye view (BEV) displays were used to construct conformal beams that delivered the prescribed doses to the targets while sparing from direct radiation most of one parotid gland. The gland that was planned to be spared resided in the neck side that was judged in each patient to be at a lesser risk of metastatic disease. Major salivary gland flow rates and the responses to a subjective xerostomia questionnaire were assessed before, during, and after radiation. RESULTS: Radiation planning for patients with central oropharyngeal tumors required the generation of multiple axial nonopposed beams. The resulting isodoses encompassed the targets, including the retropharyngeal nodes and the jugular nodes up to the base of skull bilaterally, while limiting the dose to the oral cavity, spinal cord, and one parotid gland. For patients with lateralized tumors, the ipsilateral neck side was treated up to the base of the skull; in the contralateral neck side, the treatment included the subdigastric nodes but excluded the jugular nodes at the base of the skull and most of the parotid gland. This was accomplished by a moderate gantry angle that was chosen using the BEV displays. Three months following the completion of radiation, the spared parotid glands retained on average 50% of their unstimulated and stimulated flows. In contrast, no saliva flow was measured from the unspared glands in any of the patients. Subjective xerostomia was absent, mild, or not different from that reported before radiation in 10 of 15 patients (67%). CONCLUSION: Partial parotid gland sparing is feasible by using three-dimensional planning in patients undergoing bilateral head and neck radiation. Approximately 50% of the saliva flow from the spared glands may be retained, and most patients thus treated have no or mild xerostomia in the early period after the completion of radiation. Whether tumor control and late complications are comparable to standard radiation will be assessed as more experience is gained.
Eisbruch, A; Ship, JA; Martel, MK; Ten Haken, RK; Marsh, LH; Wolf, GT; Esclamado, RM; Bradford, CR; Terrell, JE; Gebarski, SS; Lichter, AS
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