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A Journal on Heart and Vascular Diseases

Official Journal of the Italian Society of Angiology and Vascular Pathology
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Minerva Cardioangiologica 2000 March;48(3):79-88

language: English, Italian

Cardiac damage following therapeutic chest irradiation. Importance, evaluation and treatment

Vallebona A.


Radiation induced heart disease, with its clinical manifestations, is becoming a growing problem. Its prevalence is increasing, keeping pace with the increased survival of many malignancies. The majority of patients with radiation induced heart disease is constituted by Hodgkin's disease survivors, followed by non Hodgkin's disease, esophageal carcinoma, thymoma, lung cancer, breast cancer and metastatic seminoma. Pericardial disease is the most well known expression of radiation induced heart disease, although the whole cardiac structure is compromised because of the structural and consequently functional impairment. Myocardial damage can lead to a congestive heart failure, tipically due to a restrictive cardiomyopathy. Coronary artery obstructive disease frequently involves ostial coronary segments and the left main, for this reason it does appear particularly harmful. All patients undergoing chest irradiation require serial cardiological evaluation. Important risk factors of radiation induced heart disease are previous chemotherapy, radiation exposition exceeding 4000 Rad, administration next to the heart and on the left side of the chest must be taken into particular consideration. The cardiac damage limitation basically is founded on prevention. Significant results have been obtained with fractional exposition, high energy utilization and ''split'' zone covering. The radiotherapic thecnical improvement with the comprehensive individual patient risk evaluation will provide a substantial benefit for the future. The consultant cardiologist should cooperate with the oncologist and the radiotherapist, providing specific competence and continuative care.

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