High Dose Rate Brachytherapy: Its Clinical Applications and Treatment Guidelines

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Brachytherapy has the advantage of delivering a high dose to the tumor while sparing the surrounding normal tissues. With proper case selection and delivery technique, high-dose-rate (HDR) brachytherapy has great promise, because it eliminates radiation exposure, allows short treatment times, and can be performed on an outpatient basis. Additionally, use of a single-stepping source, allows optimization of dose distribution by varying the dwell time at each dwell position. However, when HDR brachytherapy is used, the treatments must be executed carefully, because the short treatment times do not allow any time for correction of errors, and mistakes can result in harm to patients. Hence, it is very important that all personnel involved in HDR brachytherapy be well trained and be constantly alert.

It is expected that the use of HDR brachytherapy will greatly expand over the next decade and that refinements will occur primarily in the integration of imaging (computed tomography, magnetic resonance imaging, intraoperative ultrasonography) and optimization of dose distribution. It is anticipated that better tumor localization and normal tissue definition will help to optimize dose distribution to the tumor and reduce normal tissue exposure. The development of well-controlled randomized trials addressing issues of efficacy, toxicity, quality of life, and costs-versus-benefits will ultimately define the role of HDR brachytherapy in the therapeutic armamentarium.

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