Changes in relative left-to-right lung blood flow ratios were followed as an index of vascular radiation injury in left-hemithorax-irradiated Sprague-Dawley rats. Single doses of 11 to 21 Gy γ radiation resulted in a dose-dependent decrease in relative blood flow to the irradiated lung from 3 to 5 weeks after exposure during the development of pneumonitis. Blood flow returned to near normal by 5 weeks after lower doses (11-13.5 Gy). After a single dose of 15 Gy the left-to-right blood flow ratio recovered to 75% of normal at 12 weeks and leveled off. Following 18 Gy irradiation a second period of reduced flow began 16 weeks after exposure. After 21 Gy irradiation flow to the irradiated side remained low for 1 year after exposure. Rats that received a single dose of 18 Gy to the left hemithorax were also treated with one or two of the following drugs: captopril, cyproheptadine, dexamethasone, diethlycarbamazine, penicillamine, or theophylline. Dexamethasone was most effective at preventing the decrease in blood flow to the irradiated lung when treatment was continued through the pneumonitis period and dose was not tapered until 8 weeks after radiation exposure. All other drugs and drug combinations were, for the most part, virtually ineffective after the pneumonitis period. There was a relatively poor correlation with earlier vascular permeability surface area product studies. This suggests that endothelial damage, as well as damage to other cell types, contributes to the development of post-irradiation fibrosis in the lung.

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