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Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys. 1996 Nov 1;36(4):857-60.

External radiotherapy in macular degeneration: technique and preliminary subjective response.

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Allegheny University Hospital, Center City, Department of Radiation Oncology and Nuclear Medicine, Philadelphia, PA 19102, USA.



This study attempted to assess the toxicity and possible preliminary benefits from the administration of low-dose external beam irradiation for age-related macular degeneration (ARMD). The premise of the treatment is that radiation induces regression and/or promotes inactivation of the subretinal neovasculature which would result in reabsorption of fluid and blood. This would reduce the risk for further leakage or bleeding, as well as subretinal fibrosis. Consequently, the beneficial effect could be translated into stabilization of visual acuity and prevention of progression of the wet ARMD with the possibility for slight improvement.


Allegheny University Department of Radiation Oncology treated 41 patients prospectively from January through October 1995 with low-dose irradiation for wet-type macular degeneration. A total of 39 patients were treated with a total dose of 14.4 Gy in eight fractions of 1.8 Gy/fraction over 10-13 elapsed days. The first two patients were treated with a total dose of 10 Gy in five fractions of 2 Gy. Patients were evaluated at 2-3 weeks and 2-3 months. Some of the patients (36.7%) had laser treatments in the study eye: 21.9% (9) once, 5% (2) twice, 9.7% (4) thrice or more. Subjective visual acuity and toxicity data were collected on all patients.


At 2-3 weeks after treatment 29 patients (70%) retained their visual acuity without change, 10 (24.5%) stated they had improved vision, and 2 (4.8%) stated their vision continued to decrease. At 2-3 months after treatment, 27 patients (65.8%) had no change in their vision, 11 (27%) had an improvement in their vision, and 3 (7.2%) had a decrease in visual acuity. Six patients of 41 in the treated group had acute transient side effects.


Our observations in this group of 41 patients support the conclusion that many patients will have improved or stable vision after treatment with low-dose irradiation for age-related wet-type macular degeneration.

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