Background: The aim of this study was to evaluate post-irradiation changes in the central nervous system (CNS) detected using magnetic resonance (MR) imaging.
Methods: Magnetic resonance images of 15 children with CNS tumors treated through whole-brain irradiation over 10 years were reviewed retrospectively. Variables such as age at the time of irradiation, total radiation dose, treatment length, and time interval between irradiation and MR changes, were evaluated.
Results: All patients included in the study had imaging abnormalities of the CNS. Eight patients (53%) developed CNS abnormalities within a short period of time - only a few months after irradiation (mean 4.8 months). Seven patients (47%) developed CNS abnormalities within a long time interval after treatment (mean 4.6 years). In almost all patients, a T2 increase in supra- and infratentorial white matter was observed. Follow-up examinations showed nine patients (60%) with cerebellar atrophy.
Conclusions: In this sample of pediatric patients who underwent whole-brain irradiation, the time receiving irradiation was not related to the severity of the MR changes. A correlation between the age of the child or the length of the radiotherapy and the extent of the changes could not be confirmed. However, we observed a trend towards stronger brain parenchymal degeneration with cystic changes in the younger age group of children in our sample. Older children who received irradiation seem to be more susceptible to vascular dysplasia with cavernous hemangiomas and microbleeding.