A clinical study of radiation cataract formation in adult life following γ irradiation of the lens in early childhood

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AimsTo analyse long term effects on the lens of radium irradiation during infancy.MethodsAn infant cohort (n = 20, median age 6 months) treated for skin haemangioma with one or two radium-226 needles located at or within the orbital rim was examined 30 to 45 years after γ radiation. Detailed information about the treatment procedure was available for all cases. Subcapsular opacities were graded semiquantitatively according to a scale based on extent and density of the opacities.ResultsA high prevalence of light to moderate posterior, subcapsular, and cortical cataract formation was found in the lenses on the treated side irradiated with a mean dose ranging from approximately 1 to 8 Gy. The cataract formation increased as a function of dose. The presence of subcapsular punctate opacities and vacuoles in the lenses on the untreated side receiving irradiation of an estimated dose varying around 0.1 Gy indicates a higher sensitivity than expected.ConclusionThe growing lens during infancy is sensitive to radium irradiation at doses lower than those previously stated. The eye lens seems suitable for studies of effects of low dose radiation since damaged cells are retained in the lens for a lifetime.

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