To investigate the value of scintigraphy as an indirect measurement of parotid function after radiotherapy (RT).
Methods and materials
Ninety-six patients with primary or postoperative RT for various malignancies in the head-and-neck region were prospectively evaluated. Parotid gland scintigraphy was performed before RT and 6 weeks and 1 year after RT. The uptake, excretion fraction of the saliva from the parotid gland to the oral cavity (SEF), and the ratios of uptake and SEF after and before treatment were calculated. CT-based treatment planning was used to derive dose–volume histograms of the parotid glands. To establish the effects of both the radiation dose and the volume of the parotid gland irradiated, the normal tissue complication probability model proposed by Lyman was fit to the data.
The mean maximal uptake of 192 parotid glands decreased significantly from 3329 counts (ct)-/s before RT to 3084 ct/s and 3005 ct/s at 6 weeks and 1 year after RT. The SEF before treatment was 44.7%. The SEF decreased to 18.7% at 6 weeks after RT, but recovered to a SEF of 32.4% at 1 year after RT. A significant correlation was found between the uptake 1 year after RT and the mean parotid dose. The reduction in post-RT SEF correlated significantly with the mean parotid gland dose. The normal tissue complication probability model parameter TD50 was found to be 29 and 43 Gy at 6 weeks and 1 year after RT, respectively, when a complication was defined as a posttreatment SEF parotid ratio of <45%.
The effects of radiation on parotid gland function using scintigraphy could be well established. A statistically significant correlation between the SEF ratio and the mean parotid dose was shown, with some recovery of function at 1 year after RT, comparable with the flow results. When direct flow measurements are not feasible, parotid scintigraphy appears to be a good indicator of gland function.
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