Dose-volume modeling of brachial plexus-associated neuropathy after radiation therapy for head-and-neck cancer: Findings from a prospective screening protocol

Allen M. Chen, Pin Chieh Wang, Megan E Daly, Jing Cui, William H. Hall, Srinivasan Vijayakumar, Theodore L. Phillips, D Gregory Farwell, James A. Purdy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

16 Scopus citations


Purpose Data from a prospective screening protocol administered for patients previously irradiated for head-and-neck cancer was analyzed to identify dosimetric predictors of brachial plexus-associated neuropathy. Methods and Materials Three hundred fifty-two patients who had previously completed radiation therapy for squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck were prospectively screened from August 2007 to April 2013 using a standardized self-administered instrument for symptoms of neuropathy thought to be related to brachial plexus injury. All patients were disease-free at the time of screening. The median time from radiation therapy was 40 months (range, 6-111 months). A total of 177 patients (50%) underwent neck dissection. Two hundred twenty-one patients (63%) received concurrent chemotherapy. Results Fifty-one patients (14%) reported brachial plexus-related neuropathic symptoms with the most common being ipsilateral pain (50%), numbness/tingling (40%), and motor weakness and/or muscle atrophy (25%). The 3- and 5-year estimates of freedom from brachial plexus-associated neuropathy were 86% and 81%, respectively. Clinical/pathological N3 disease (P<.001) and maximum radiation dose to the ipsilateral brachial plexus (P=.01) were significantly associated with neuropathic symptoms. Cox regression analysis revealed significant dose-volume effects for brachial plexus-associated neuropathy. The volume of the ipsilateral brachial plexus receiving >70 Gy (V70) predicted for symptoms, with the incidence increasing with V70 >10% (P<.001). A correlation was also observed for the volume receiving >74 Gy (V74) among patients treated without neck dissection, with a cutoff of 4% predictive of symptoms (P=.038). Conclusions Dose-volume guidelines were developed for radiation planning that may limit brachial plexus-related neuropathies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)771-777
Number of pages7
JournalInternational Journal of Radiation Oncology Biology Physics
Issue number4
StatePublished - Mar 15 2014


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Radiation
  • Cancer Research

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