Send to

Choose Destination
See comment in PubMed Commons below
Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys. 2001 Mar 1;49(3):685-98.

Late rectal bleeding after conformal radiotherapy of prostate cancer. II. Volume effects and dose-volume histograms.

Author information

Department of Medical Physics, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, 1275 York Ave., New York, NY 10021, USA.



Late rectal bleeding is a potentially dose limiting complication of three-dimensional conformal radiotherapy (3D-CRT) for prostate cancer. The frequency of late rectal bleeding has been shown to increase as the prescription dose rises above 70 Gy. The purpose of this study is to identify features of the cumulative dose-volume histogram (DVH) for the rectal wall that correlate with late rectal bleeding after 3D-CRT for prostate cancer.


Follow-up information on rectal bleeding is available for 261 and 315 patients treated using 3D-CRT at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center for Stage T1c-T3 prostate cancer with minimum target doses of 70.2 and 75.6 Gy, respectively. All patients in this study were treated with a coplanar 6-field technique (2 lateral and 4 oblique fields). Patients were classified as having rectal bleeding if they bled (> or = Grade 2) before 30 months, and nonbleeding (< or = Grade 1) if they were without bleeding at 30 months, using the RTOG morbidity scale. Rectal bleeding was observed in 13 and 38 of the patients treated at 70.2 and 75.6 Gy, respectively. Treatment plans were analyzed for 39 nonbleeding and 13 bleeding patients receiving 70.2 Gy, and 83 nonbleeding and 36 bleeding patients receiving 75.6 Gy. Dose-volume histograms (DVHs) for the anatomic rectal wall were calculated. Average DVHs of the bleeding and nonbleeding patients were generated, and a permutation test was used to assess the significance of differences between them, for each dose group. The confounding effect of total rectal wall volume (V(RW)) was removed by calculating the average differences in DVHs between all combinations of bleeding and nonbleeding patients with similar V(RW)s. Finally, multivariate analysis using logistic regression was performed to test the significance of the DVH variables in the presence of anatomic, geometric, and medical variables previously found to correlate with rectal bleeding in a companion analysis of the same patients.


The area under the average percent volume DVH for the rectal wall of patients with bleeding was significantly higher than those of patients without bleeding in both dose groups (p = 0.02, 70.2 Gy; p < 0.0001, 75.6 Gy). However, small V(RW)s were associated with rectal bleeding (p = 0.06, 70.2 Gy; p < 0.01, 75.6 Gy), resulting in an increase in average percent volumes exposed to all doses for patients with rectal bleeding. For patients with similar V(RW)s, rectal bleeding was significantly correlated with the volumes exposed to 46 Gy in both dose groups (p = 0.02, 70.2 Gy; p = 0.005, 75.6 Gy, tolerance in V(RW): 5 ccs). For the 75.6 Gy dose group, the percent volume receiving 77 Gy was significantly correlated with rectal bleeding (p < 0.005). Bivariate analysis using logistic regression, including V(RW) together with a single DVH variable, showed good agreement with the above analysis. Multivariate analysis revealed a borderline significant correlation of the percent volume receiving 71 Gy in the 70.2 Gy dose group. It also showed that the DVH variables were highly correlated with geometric and dosimetric variables previously found to correlate with rectal bleeding in multivariate analysis.


Significant volume effects were found in the probability of late rectal bleeding for patients undergoing 3D-CRT for prostate cancer with prescription doses of 70.2 and 75.6 Gy. The percent volumes exposed to 71 and 77 Gy in the 70.2 and 75.6 Gy dose groups respectively were significantly correlated with rectal bleeding. The independent correlation of small V(RW) with rectal bleeding may indicate the existence of a functional reserve for the rectum. The independent association with larger percent volumes exposed to intermediate doses ( approximately 46 Gy) seen in both dose groups may indicate that a large surrounding region of intermediate dose may interfere with the ability to repair the effects of a central high dose region.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
PubMed Commons home

PubMed Commons

How to join PubMed Commons

    Supplemental Content

    Full text links

    Icon for Elsevier Science
    Loading ...
    Support Center