Sequential necropsies and histologic evaluations of young adult beagle dogs were performed after irradiation of the thorax. Total doses to the heart were 36, 44, or 52 Gy given in 4-Gy fractions in 4 weeks. One month after irradiation there was little histologic evidence of damage visible by light microscopy. However, ventricular and septal weights were increased, probably due to edema. At 3 months damage to endothelial and mesothelial cells was evident. By 12 months the myocardium was thinned and focal degeneration and loss of muscle cells and Purkinje fibers were observed. There was extensive subendocardial and epicardial fibrosis as well as intimal proliferation in coronary arteries. Morphometric analyses were performed on the myocardium, pericardium, atria, and aorta. There was a slight increase in perivascular connective tissue in the myocardium. The pericardium was increased in thickness and the ratio of smooth muscle to elastin was decreased in the aorta. Severe fibrosis occurred only in the right atrium. At 1 year there was no clinical evidence of heart failure; however, evidence of myocardial damage was present histologically and functionally. Additional stress and continued aging are likely to enhance the damage and lead to serious complications. The interactions of irradiated lung and heart require further investigation.

This content is only available as a PDF.
You do not currently have access to this content.