18F-fluorodeoxyglucose-positron emission tomography/computed tomography (FDG-PET/CT) is used in the clinical management of oncologic and inflammatory pathologies. It may have utility in detecting radiotherapy (RT)-induced damage of oral tissues. Thus, the aim of the present study was to use FDG-PET/CT to evaluate parotid gland inflammation following RT in patients with head and neck cancer (HNC).
This retrospective study included patients with HNC treated with photon, proton, or combined photon/proton RT, in addition to chemotherapy. All patients received FDG-PET/CT imaging pre-treatment and 3 months post-treatment. The average mean standardized uptake value (Avg SUVmean) and the average maximum standardized uptake value (Avg SUVmax) of the left and right parotid glands were determined by global assessment of FDG activity using OsiriX MD software. A two-tailed paired t test was used to compare Avg SUVmean and Avg SUVmax pre- and post-RT.
Forty-seven HNC patients were included in the study. Parotid gland Avg SUVmean was significantly higher at 3 months post-treatment than pre-treatment (p < 0.05) in patients treated with photon RT, but no significant differences were found between pre- and post-treatment Avg SUVmean in patients treated with proton RT or combined photon/proton RT.
Our results suggest that photon RT may cause radiation-induced inflammation of the parotid gland, and that proton RT, which distributes less off-target radiation, is a safer treatment alternative.
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