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Neurosurgery. 2000 Jan;46(1):138-49; discussion 150-1.

Effects of radiation on cerebral vasculature: a review.

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  • 1Department of Neurological Surgery, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, USA.


Radiation therapy plays a critical role in the treatment of central nervous system neoplasms and cerebral arteriovenous malformations. The deleterious effects of radiation on cerebral arteries may be the primary limitation to these treatment methods, as radiation may cause a variety of cerebrovascular injuries and hemodynamic changes. Radiation-induced changes in the cerebral arterial wall are determined by a number of cellular processes in endothelium and smooth muscle cells that modulate differences in radiosensitivity and phenotypic expression. The histopathological findings in arterial radiation injury include vessel wall thickening, thrombosis, luminal occlusion, and occasional telangiectases. Mechanisms for radiation injury to blood vessels include phenotypic changes in normal vessel wall cells (especially endothelium) manifested by the expression or suppression of specific gene and protein products that affect cell cycle progression or cellular proliferation or demise via cytotoxic injury or apoptosis. This review describes the molecular and cellular events involved in the systemic and cerebral vascular response to radiation and the potential means by which these responses may be influenced to augment the therapeutic effects of radiation while minimizing the untoward consequences.

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