Background We aim to characterize serial (i.e., acute and late) MRI signal intensity (SI) changes in dysphagia-associated structures as a function of radiotherapy (RT) in nasopharyngeal cancer (NPC) patients. Materials and methods We retrospectively extracted data on 72 patients with stage III-IV NPC treated with intensity-modulated RT (IMRT). The mean T1- and T2-weighted MRI SIs were recorded for the superior pharyngeal constrictor (SPC) and soft palate (SP) at baseline, early-after IMRT, and last follow up, with normalization to structures receiving <5 Gy. Results All structures had a significant increase in T2 SIs early after treatment, irrespective of the mean dose given. At last follow-up, the increase in T2 SI subsided completely for SPC and partially for SP. The T1 SI did not change significantly in early follow-up images of both structures; on late follow-up, patients with mean doses >62.25 Gy had a significant decrease in the corresponding T1 SI for SPC (1.6 ± 0.4 vs. 1.3 ± 0.4, P = 0.007) but decreased non-significantly for SP. Conclusions Serial MRI acquisitions enable the identification of both early and late radiation-induced changes in swallowing structures after definitive IMRT for NPC. Dose dependent decrease in late T1 SI is associated with higher RT doses to the superior pharyngeal constrictor muscle; while dose independent increase in SI for both structures in early post-RT T2 images is observed and subsides after therapy. Further efforts will seek to elucidate the relationship between dose-dependent muscle SI changes and functional alteration of swallowing muscles.
- Magnetic resonance imaging
- Nasopharyngeal carcinoma
- Superior pharyngeal constrictor
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging