Research Papers:

Radiation-induced brachial plexopathy in patients with nasopharyngeal carcinoma: a retrospective study

Zhaoxi Cai, Yi Li, Zhen Hu, Ruying Fu, Xiaoming Rong, Rong Wu, Jinping Cheng, Xiaolong Huang, Jinjun Luo and Yamei Tang _

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Oncotarget. 2016; 7:18887-18895. https://doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.7748

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Zhaoxi Cai3,*, Yi Li1,2,*, Zhen Hu4,*, Ruying Fu1, Xiaoming Rong1, Rong Wu1, Jinping Cheng1, Xiaolong Huang1, Jinjun Luo5, Yamei Tang1,2,6

1Department of Neurology, Sun Yat-Sen Memorial Hospital, Sun Yat-Sen University, Guangzhou, Guangdong Province, China

2Key Laboratory of Malignant Tumor Gene Regulation and Target Therapy of Guangdong Higher Education Institutes, Sun Yat-Sen University, Guangzhou, Guangdong Province, China

3Department of Radiology, Sun Yat-Sen Memorial Hospital, Sun Yat-Sen University, Guangzhou, Guangdong Province, China

4Department of Neurosurgery, Sun Yat-Sen Memorial Hospital, Sun Yat-Sen University, Guangzhou, Guangdong Province, China

5Departments of Neurology and Pharmacology, Temple University School of Medicine, Philadelphia, PA, USA

6Guangdong Province Key Laboratory of Brain Function and Disease, Zhongshan School of Medicine, Sun Yat-sen University, Guangzhou, Guangdong Province, China

*These authors have contributed equally to this work

Correspondence to:

Yamei Tang, e-mail: yameitang@hotmail.com

Keywords: nasopharyngeal carcinoma, brachial plexopathy, radiotherapy, MRI, electromyography

Received: December 21, 2015    Accepted: February 14, 2016    Published: February 26, 2016


Radiation-induced brachial plexopathy (RIBP) is one of the late complications in nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC) patients who received radiotherapy. We conducted a retrospective study to investigate its clinical characteristics and risk factors.Thirty-onepatients with RIBP after radiotherapy for NPC were enrolled. Clinical manifestations of RIBP, electrophysiologic data, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and the correlation between irradiation strategy and incidence of RIBP were evaluated. The mean latency at the onset of RIBP was 4.26 years. Of the symptoms, paraesthesia usually presented first (51.6%), followed by pain (22.6%) and weakness (22.6%). The major symptoms included paraesthesia (90.3%), pain (54.8%), weakness (48.4%), fasciculation (19.3%) and muscle atrophy (9.7%). Nerve conduction velocity (NCV) and electromyography (EMG) disclosed that pathological changes of brachial plexus involved predominantly in the upper and middle trunks in distribution. MRI of the brachial plexus showed hyper-intensity on T1, T2, post-contrast T1 and diffusion weighted whole body imaging with background body signal suppression (DWIBS) images in lower cervical nerves. Radiotherapy with Gross Tumor volume (GTVnd) and therapeutic dose (mean 66.8±2.8Gy) for patients with lower cervical lymph node metastasis was related to a significantly higher incidence of RIBP (P<0.001).Thus, RIBP is a severe and progressive complication of NPC after radiotherapy. The clinical symptoms are predominantly involved in upper and middle trunk of the brachial plexus in distribution. Lower cervical lymph node metastasis and corresponding radiotherapy might cause a significant increase of the RIBP incidence.

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