Corneal complications after orbital radiotherapy for primary epithelial malignancies of the lacrimal gland

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To review the long-term corneal complications after high-dose external beam orbital radiotherapy given to patients for lacrimal gland carcinomas. The impact of prophylactic measures to improve long-term ocular surface health is also assessed.


Retrospective case series.


Patients under the care of Moorfields Eye Hospital and receiving external beam radiotherapy for primary epithelial lacrimal gland carcinoma between 1975 and 2014.


Retrospective review of ophthalmic case notes at Moorfields Eye Hospital, and oncology and general physician records.

Main outcome measures

The occurrence of corneal perforation, and time to perforation.


Sixty-seven patients were included in this study, of whom nine (13%) developed corneal perforation at a median time of 10.4 months after radiotherapy (mean 35; range 3.2 months to 14.5 years); the majority (7/9; 78%) perforated within 36 months of radiotherapy. The mean follow-up interval of the whole cohort was 8.2 years (median 4.6; range, 2 months to 30.7 years).


Although most patients with globe-sparing treatment of lacrimal gland carcinoma did not suffer corneal perforation, they usually require long-term therapy to maintain the ocular surface. The high-dose external beam radiotherapy needed for lacrimal gland carcinoma can produce significant ocular surface morbidity, and the 13% incidence of corneal perforation was greatest in the first 3 years after irradiation.

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