The clinical value of nuclear medicine in the assessment of irradiation-induced and anthracycline-associated cardiac damage

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Two groups of patients, those treated for Hodgkin's disease and breast cancer, are particularly at risk of developing late myocardial damage, since radiotherapy (RT) techniques for both patient groups may include (large) parts of the heart, and adjuvant systemic therapy is frequently administered to these patients, in particular anthracycline-containing chemotherapy. Available literature on the monitoring and prediction of RT-induced and anthracycline-associated cardiac damage using nuclear medicine techniques is presented. Based on relevant studies, the risk of overall cardiac disease post-RT and overt congestive heart failure during anthracycline-containing chemotherapy is probably low. Conventional nuclear medicine imaging, i.e. myocardial perfusion scintigraphy, may be of complementary use to echocardiographical evaluation for routine follow-up after RT with modern techniques, in a subgroup of patients with known cardiovascular risk factors. Left ventricle ejection fraction (LVEF) measurements, as assessed by radionuclide angiography for the monitoring of anthracycline-associated cardiac injury, are not very sensitive and early detection will probably be enhanced by combining LVEF measurements with other cardiac function parameters. Also, it may be expected that nuclear medicine techniques using molecular radioligands will constitute an essential future step in the evaluation of subclinical cardiac injury afforded by the combined effect of RT and cardiotoxic chemotherapy.

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