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Identifying organs at risk for radiation-induced late dysphagia in head and neck cancer patients.

Journal article
Authors Anna Hedström
Lisa Tuomi
Caterina Finizia
Caroline Olsson
Published in Clinical and translational radiation oncology
Volume 19
Pages 87-95
ISSN 2405-6308
Publication year 2019
Published at Institute of Clinical Sciences, Department of Radiation Physics
Institute of Clinical Sciences, Department of Otorhinolaryngology
Pages 87-95
Language en
Subject categories Otorhinolaryngology


Dysphagia is a common, severe and dose-limiting toxicity after oncological treatment of head and neck cancer (HNC). This study aims to investigate relationships between radiation doses to structures involved in normal swallowing and patient-reported as well as clinically measured swallowing function in HNC patients after curative (chemo-) radiation therapy (RT) with focus on late effects.Patients (n = 90) with HNC curatively treated with RT ± chemotherapy in 2007-2015 were assessed for dysphagia post-treatment by telephone interview and videofluoroscopy (VFS). A study-specific symptom score was used to determine patient-reported dysphagia. The Penetration-Aspiration Scale (PAS) was applied to determine swallowing function by VFS (PAS ≥ 4/ ≥ 6 = moderate/severe dysphagia). Thirteen anatomical structures involved in normal swallowing were individually delineated on the patients' original planning CT scans and associated dose-volume histograms (DVHs) retrieved. Relationships between structure doses and late toxicity were investigated through univariable and multivariable logistic regression analysis (UVA/MVA) accounting for effects by relevant clinical factors.Median assessment time was 7 months post-RT (range: 5-34 months). Mean dose to the contralateral parotid gland and supraglottic larynx as well as maximum dose to the contralateral anterior digastric muscle predicted patient-reported dysphagia (AUC = 0.64-0.67). Mean dose to the pharyngeal constrictor muscle, the larynx, the supraglottic larynx and the epiglottis, as well as maximum dose to the contralateral submandibular gland predicted moderate and severe dysphagia by VFS (AUC = 0.71-0.80).The patients in this cohort were consecutively identified pre-treatment, and were structurally approached and assessed for dysphagia after treatment at a specific time point. In addition to established dysphagia organs-at-risk (OARs), our data suggest that epiglottic and submandibular gland doses are important for swallowing function post-RT. Keeping DVH thresholds below V60 = 60% and V60 = 17%, respectively, may increase chances to reduce occurrence of severe late dysphagia. The results need to be externally validated in future studies.

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