Hypothyroidism is an established adverse effect of radiation therapy for head and neck cancer, and computed tomography (CT) density of the thyroid gland is lower in hypothyroid than euthyroid individuals. No previous studies have evaluated changes in CT densities of the thyroid gland caused by radiation therapy. The aim was to investigate the relationship between the change in CT density of the thyroid gland before and after radiation therapy for head and neck cancer and hypothyroidism.
MATERIALS AND METHODS
This retrospective study analyzed data of 24 patients treated by radiation therapy for head and neck cancers. After dosimetric analysis of received radiation therapy, a Picture Archiving and Communication System was used to manually contour the thyroid on pre-treatment CT images to enable determination of mean thyroid gland CT densities and received radiation doses. Pre- and post-treatment thyroid function was assessed on the basis of serum TSH concentrations. Multivariate and univariate analyses were used to determine what clinical factors are associated with post-radiation therapy decrease in CT density of the thyroid and Pearson’s χ2 test was used to assess correlations between these densities and TSH concentrations.
Mean CT densities of the thyroid gland decreased from before to after radiation therapy in 73.9% of our patients (median decrease 16.8 HU). Serum TSH concentrations were significantly higher in patients with greater then median decreases in CT density than in those with lesser or no decreases.
Post-radiation therapy hypothyroidism may be predicted by significant decreases in CT density of the thyroid gland.