The role of pre-treatment white matter abnormalities in developing white matter changes following whole brain radiation: a volumetric study
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White matter injury is a known complication of whole brain radiation (WBRT). Little is known about the factors that predispose a patient to such injury. The current study used MR volumetrics to examine risk factors, in particular the influence of pre-treatment white matter health, in developing white matter change (WMC) following WBRT. Thirty-four patients with unilateral metastatic disease underwent FLAIR MRI pre-treatment and at several time points following treatment. The volume of abnormal FLAIR signal in the white matter was measured in the hemisphere contralateral to the diseased hemisphere at each time point. Analyses were restricted to the uninvolved hemisphere to allow for the measurement of WBRT effects without the potential confounding effects of the disease on imaging findings. The relationship between select pre-treatment clinical variables and the degree of WMC following treatment was examined using correlational and regression based analyses. Age when treated and volume of abnormal FLAIR prior to treatment were significantly associated with WMC following WBRT; however, pre-treatment FLAIR volume was the strongest predictor of post-treatment WMCs. Age did not add any predictive value once white matter status was considered. No significant relationships were found between biological equivalent dose and select cerebrovascular risk factors (total glucose, blood pressure, BMI) and development of WMCs. The findings from this study identify pre-treatment white matter health as an important risk factor in developing WMC following WBRT. This information can be used to make more informed decisions and counsel patients on their risk for treatment effects.