Radiation therapy effects on white matter fiber tracts of the limbic circuit

Department of Radiation Oncology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, USA.
Medical Physics (Impact Factor: 2.64). 09/2012; 39(9):5603-13. DOI: 10.1118/1.4745560
Source: PubMed


To segment fiber tracts in the limbic circuit and to assess their sensitivity to radiation therapy (RT).
Twelve patients with brain metastases who had received fractionated whole brain radiation therapy to 30 Gy or 37.5 Gy were included in the study. Diffusion weighted images were acquired pre-RT, at the end of RT, and 1-month post-RT. The fornix, corpus callosum, and cingulum were extracted from diffusion weighted images by combining fiber tracking and segmentation methods based upon characteristics of the fiber bundles. Cingulum was segmented by a seed-based tractography, fornix by a region of interests (ROI)-based tractography, and corpus callosum by a level-set segmentation algorithm. The radiation-induced longitudinal changes of diffusion indices of the structures were evaluated.
Significant decreases were observed in the fractional anisotropy of the posterior part of the cingulum, fornix, and corpus callosum from pre-RT to end of RT by -14.0%, -12.5%, and -5.2%, respectively (p < 0.001), and from pre-RT to 1-month post-RT by -11.9%, -12.8%, and -6.4%, respectively (p < 0.001). Moreover, significant increases were observed in the mean diffusivity of the corpus callosum and the posterior part of the cingulum from pre-RT to end of RT by 6.8% and 6.5%, respectively, and from pre-RT to 1-month post-RT by 8.5% and 6.3%, respectively. The increase in the radial diffusivity primarily contributed to the significant decrease in the fractional anisotropy, indicating that demyelination is the predominant radiation effect on the white matter structures.
Our findings indicate that the fornix and the posterior part of the cingulum are significantly susceptible to radiation damage. We have developed robust computer-aided semiautomatic segmentation and fiber tracking tools to facilitate the ROI delineation of critical structures, which is important for assessment of radiation damage in a longitudinal fashion.

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    • "Witelson subregions of genu (including rostrum), rostral body, anterior midbody, posterior midbody, isthmus and splenium (Witelson, 1989, Nazem-Zadeh et al., 2013). The fornix was also established using a multiple ROI fiber-tracking algorithm (Nazem-Zadeh et al., 2012a), and included: 1-Manual depiction of three coronal ROIs at the most anterior part of the forniceal body, the branching point of the forniceal body from the crura and between the branching point and the most posterior part of the forniceal crura; 2-Manual depiction of two axial ROIs at the most posterior and the most inferior parts of the forniceal crura; 3-Fiber-tracking between consecutive ROIs; 4-Division of the fornix into three subregions of anterior body, left crus and right crus using the branching point of the forniceal crura from the body.with overlaid segments on sagittal images. "
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    ABSTRACT: There is little known about how brain white matter structures differ in their response to radiation, which may have implications for radiation-induced neurocognitive impairment. We used diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) to examine regional variation in white matter changes following chemoradiotherapy. Fourteen patients receiving two or three weeks of whole-brain radiation therapy (RT) ± chemotherapy underwent DTI pre-RT, at end-RT, and one month post-RT. Three diffusion indices were measured: fractional anisotropy (FA), radial diffusivity (RD), and axial diffusivity (AD). We determined significant individual voxel changes of diffusion indices using tract-based spatial statistics, and mean changes of the indices within fourteen white matter structures of interest. Voxels of significant FA decreases and RD increases were seen in all structures (p<0.05), with the largest changes (20-50%) in the fornix, cingula, and corpus callosum. There were highly significant between-structure differences in pre-RT to end-RT mean FA changes (<0.001). The inferior cingula had a mean FA decrease from pre-RT to end-RT significantly greater than 11 of the 13 other structures (<0.00385). Brain white matter structures varied greatly in their response to chemoradiotherapy as measured by DTI changes. Changes in FA and RD related to white matter demyelination were prominent in the cingula and fornix, structures relevant to radiation-induced neurocognitive impairment. Future research should evaluate DTI as a predictive biomarker of brain chemoradiotherapy adverse effects.
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    ABSTRACT: The purpose of this study is to evaluate repeatability coefficients of diffusion tensor indices to assess whether longitudinal changes in diffusion indices were true changes beyond the uncertainty for individual patients undergoing radiation therapy (RT). Twenty-two patients who had low-grade or benign tumors and were treated by partial brain radiation therapy (PBRT) participated in an IRB-approved MRI protocol. The diffusion tensor images in the patients were acquired pre-RT, week 3 during RT, at the end of RT, and 1, 6, and 18 months after RT. As a measure of uncertainty, repeatability coefficients (RC) of diffusion indices in the segmented cingulum, corpus callosum, and fornix were estimated by using test-retest diffusion tensor datasets from the National Biomedical Imaging Archive (NBIA) database. The upper and lower limits of the 95% confidence interval of the estimated RC from the test and retest data were used to evaluate whether the longitudinal percentage changes in diffusion indices in the segmented structures in the individual patients were beyond the uncertainty and thus could be considered as true radiation-induced changes. Diffusion indices in different white matter structures showed different uncertainty ranges. The estimated RC for fractional anisotropy (FA) ranged from 5.3% to 9.6%, for mean diffusivity (MD) from 2.2% to 6.8%, for axial diffusivity (AD) from 2.4% to 5.5%, and for radial diffusivity (RD) from 2.9% to 9.7%. Overall, 23% of the patients treated by RT had FA changes, 44% had MD changes, 50% had AD changes, and 50% had RD changes beyond the uncertainty ranges. In the fornix, 85.7% and 100% of the patients showed changes beyond the uncertainty range at 6 and 18 months after RT, demonstrating that radiation has a pronounced late effect on the fornix compared to other segmented structures. It is critical to determine reliability of a change observed in an individual patient for clinical decision making. Assessments of the repeatability and confidence interval of diffusion tensor measurements in white matter structures allow us to determine the true longitudinal change in individual patients.
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