Effect of hyperthermia on the central nervous system: a review

P Sminia, J van der Zee, J Wondergem, J Haveman

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Experimental data show that nervous tissue is sensitive to heat. Animal data indicate that the maximum tolerated heat dose after local hyperthermia of the central nervous system (CNS) lies in the range of 40-60 min at 42-42 x 5 degrees C or 10-30 min at 43 degrees C. No conclusions concerning the heat sensitivity of nervous tissue can be derived from clinical studies using localized hyperthermia. The choice whether or not to exceed the critical heat dose, as derived from laboratory studies, in clinical practice is very much dependent on the clinical situation such as the anatomical site and volume of the tissue involved, and prior therapy. Data on clinical application of whole body hyperthermia (WBH) show that nervous tissue can withstand a slightly higher heat dose than after localized heating, which might be the result of developing thermal resistance during treatment. Expression of thermotolerance was observed in the spinal cord of laboratory animals. After WBH in man at a maximum between 40 and 43 degrees C for 6 h-30 min CNS complications were reported, but other complications seemed to be more life-threatening. Most studies indicate that impairment of the CNS after WBH was not due to direct heat injury to the brain or spinal cord, but was secondary as a result of physiological changes. Heat, at least if applied shortly after X-rays, enhances the response of nervous tissue to radiation. Neurotoxicity of chemotherapeutic drugs does not seem to be a limiting complication in hyperthermia if combined with chemotherapy, but only few data are available. The limited clinical experience shows that safe hyperthermic treatment of CNS malignancies or tumours located close to the CNS seems feasible under appropriate technical conditions with adequate thermometry and taking the sensitivity of the surrounding normal nervous tissue into account.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-30
Number of pages30
JournalInternational journal of hyperthermia
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 1994

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