Late central airway toxicity after high-dose radiotherapy: Clinical outcomes and a proposed bronchoscopic classification

Juliët E. van Hoorn*, Max Dahele, Johannes M. A. Daniels

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


The study’s purpose was to identify the bronchoscopic patterns of central airway toxicity following high-dose radiotherapy or chemoradiotherapy, and to look at the consequences of these findings. Our institutional bronchoscopy database was accessed to identify main patterns of airway toxicity observed in a seven-year period. A total of 70 patients were identified with central airway toxicity, and the findings of bronchoscopy were used to derive a classification system. Patient char-acteristics, time from radiotherapy to toxicity, follow-up and survival were retrospectively ana-lyzed. Results: The main bronchoscopic patterns of airway toxicity were vascular changes (telangi-ectasia, loss of vascularity, necrosis) and stenosis of the lumen (moderate, severe). Indications for bronchoscopy were airway symptoms (n = 28), assessment post-CRT/surgery (n = 12), (suspected) recurrence (n = 21) or assessment of radiological findings (n = 9). Stenosis was revealed by bron-choscopy at a median time of 10.0 months (IQR: 4–23.5) after radiotherapy and subsequent follow-up after identification was 23 months (IQR: 1.5–55). The corresponding findings for vascular changes were 29 months (IQR: 10.5–48.5), and follow-up after identification was nine months (IQR: 2.5–19.5). There was a statistically significant difference in survival rates between patients with necrosis and telangiectasia (p = 0.002) and loss of vascularity (p = 0.001). Eight out of 10 deceased patients with telangiectasia died of other causes and 4/8 patients with necrosis died of other causes. We identified two main patterns of central airway toxicity visualized with bronchoscopy after high-dose radiotherapy or chemoradiotherapy, and propose a bronchoscopic classification system based on these findings. Preliminary analysis suggests that the pattern and severity of radiation damage might be of prognostic value. Prospective data are required to confirm our findings.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1313
Pages (from-to)1-12
Number of pages12
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2 Mar 2021

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