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Pterygium treated with excision and postoperative beta irradiation.

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  • 1Department of Radiation Oncology, University of Arizona College of Medicine, Tucson.


A retrospective study was done of 338 patients with pterygia treated between October 1974 and May 1990. These patients resided in the desert of the southwestern United States, where the hot, dry, dusty climate is thought to predispose to pterygium formation and subsequent recurrence. The pterygia were excised, and the administration of beta irradiation was initiated within 24 hr of surgery. Sixteen percent of the pterygia were recurrent. Ninety-five percent of the beta irradiation prescriptions consisted of 3 weekly 800 cGy fractions. For patients with a minimum of 6 months follow-up, the crude local control rate was 225/258 (88%). The Kaplan-Meier estimate of the 5-year local control rate was 84% (95% confidence interval: 79-89%). Ten of 33 recurrences were diagnosed within 6 months, and 32/33 recurrences were diagnosed within 5 years of treatment. Previously untreated pterygia were controlled more easily than were recurrent pterygia (p = 0.005). In 86% of the cases, patients judged the cosmetic results to be satisfactory. No severe complications developed. This study and others, when compared with studies involving excision alone, suggest that postoperative beta irradiation reduces the likelihood for pterygium recurrence. When the beta irradiation is fractionated, satisfactory cosmetic results can be achieved with low morbidity.

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