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Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys. 2012 Sep 1;84(1):8-14. doi: 10.1016/j.ijrobp.2011.10.080. Epub 2012 Jan 31.

Effectiveness of reirradiation for painful bone metastases: a systematic review and meta-analysis.

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Department of Radiology, University Medical Center Utrecht, Utrecht, the Netherlands.



Reirradiation of painful bone metastases in nonresponders or patients with recurrent pain after initial response is performed in up to 42% of patients initially treated with radiotherapy. Literature on the effect of reirradiation for pain control in those patients is scarce. In this systematic review and meta-analysis, we quantify the effectiveness of reirradiation for achieving pain control in patients with painful bone metastases.


A free text search was performed to identify eligible studies using the MEDLINE, EMBASE, and the Cochrane Collaboration library electronic databases. After study selection and quality assessment, a pooled estimate was calculated for overall pain response for reirradiation of metastatic bone pain.


Our literature search identified 707 titles, of which 10 articles were selected for systematic review and seven entered the meta-analysis. Overall study quality was mediocre. Of the 2,694 patients initially treated for metastatic bone pain, 527 (20%) patients underwent reirradiation. Overall, a pain response after reirradiation was achieved in 58% of patients (pooled overall response rate 0.58, 95% confidence interval = 0.49-0.67). There was a substantial between-study heterogeneity (I² = 63.3%, p = 0.01) because of clinical and methodological differences between studies.


Reirradiation of painful bone metastases is effective in terms of pain relief for a small majority of patients; approximately 40% of patients do not benefit from reirradiation. Although the validity of results is limited, this meta-analysis provides a comprehensive overview and the most quantitative estimate of reirradiation effectiveness to date.

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