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Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys. 2000 Jul 15;47(5):1273-9.

Morbidity of adjuvant brachytherapy in soft tissue sarcoma of the extremity and superficial trunk.

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  • 1Department of Radiation Oncology, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, New York, NY 10021, USA.



We have previously shown that adjuvant brachytherapy (BRT) improves local control in soft tissue sarcoma (STS) of the extremity and superficial trunk. A detailed assessment of the morbidity of this approach has not been examined. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the toxicity associated with adjuvant BRT in terms of wound complications, bone fracture, and peripheral nerve damage.


Between July 1982 and June 1992, 164 adult patients with STS of the extremity or superficial trunk were randomized intraoperatively to receive or not to receive BRT after complete resection. BRT was delivered with (192)Ir to a total dose of 42-45 Gy. The BRT and no-BRT arms were balanced with regard to age, sex, presentation (primary vs. recurrent), site, grade, size, and depth. Morbidity was assessed in terms of significant wound complication, bone fracture, and peripheral nerve damage (grade > or = 3). The significant wound complications were defined as those wound problems requiring operative revision for coverage or threatened limb loss, persistent seroma requiring repeated aspirations and/or drainage, wound separation > 2 cm, hematoma > 25 ml, and/or purulent wound discharge. The median follow-up was 100 months.


The significant wound complication rate was 24% in the BRT group and 14% in the no-BRT group, (p = 0.13). The rate of wound reoperation, however, was significantly higher in the BRT arm (10% vs. 0%; p = 0. 006). Examination of other covariables that may have contributed to wound reoperation revealed the width of the excised skin (WES) to be a significant factor [1% (WES < or = 4 cm) vs. 10% (WES > 4 cm), p = 0. 02]. Bone fracture only occurred in patients receiving BRT (n = 3, 4%), although this was not statistically significant (p = 0.2). The rate of peripheral nerve damage, however, was similar in both arms (7% vs. 7%).


The overall morbidity associated with adjuvant BRT was not significantly higher than that with surgery alone. However, BRT and WES > 4 cm were associated with significantly higher wound reoperation rate. This has significant implications for strategies designed to maximize wound coverage in patients who receive BRT.

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