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Radiother Oncol. 1996 Feb;38(2):121-30.

Acute lumbosacral plexopathy during and after preoperative radiotherapy of rectal adenocarcinoma.

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  • 1Department of Oncology, Uppsala University, Akademiska sjukhuset, Sweden.


The benefit of preoperative radiotherapy of adenocarcinoma of the rectum with respect to a reduced local recurrence rate and an improved survival should be weighed against adverse effects. For 14 years a three-beam, isocentric technique was employed at our hospital to deliver five fractions (5.0 or 5.1 Gy), over 5 or 7 days preoperatively, to patients with rectal cancer which was considered primarily resectable. The adverse effects of the radiotherapy were few, but acute pain and subacute neurological symptoms and signs did occur. An apparent increase in the frequency of these symptoms/signs was noted during 1993. The pain and neurological symptoms are described in case reports and the individual treatments are reviewed. The three-beam technique was analyzed in detail with individual, CT-based, three-dimensional dose-planning and dose distributions in the vicinity of the lumbar nerve plexus are presented. The major result of this analysis showed that technical errors could be excluded, that human errors were unlikely, and that the culprit probably was an unexpected sensitivity to marginal changes in the daily dose and unknown or unexpected radiosensitizing effects of concurrent diseases or medication.

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