The exposition of cardiac conduction system during breast radiation therapy has never been studied, despite the increasing use of intensity-modulated radiation therapy, which exposes larger volume to low-dose bath. We evaluated conduction node exposure during breast irradiation with volumetric modulated arc therapy and estimated the potential dosimetric benefit with intensity-modulated proton therapy.
Atrioventricular (AVN) and sinoatrial (SAN) nodes were retrospectively delineated according to published guidelines on the simulation computed tomography scans of 12 breast cancer patients having undergone conserving surgery and adjuvant locoregional volumetric modulated arc therapy. Intensity-modulated proton therapy treatment was replanned on the simulation computed tomography scans for all breast cancer patients. Mean and maximum doses delivered to the SAN and the AVN were retrieved and compared. Correlation coefficients were calculated between doses to the SAN or the AVN and the whole heart.
Average mean doses delivered to the SAN and AVN were 2.8 and 2.3 Gy, respectively, for left-sided irradiation and 9.6 and 3.6 Gy, respectively, for right-sided irradiation. Average maximum doses to the SAN and AVN were 3.5 Gy and 2.8 Gy, respectively, for left-sided irradiation and 13.1 and 4.6 Gy, respectively, for right-sided irradiation. Intensity-modulated proton therapy significantly reduced mean and maximum doses to the SAN and AVN. Correlations between doses to the SAN or AVN and whole heart were usually significant.
SAN and AVN can be substantially exposed during breast volumetric modulated arc therapy, especially for right-sided irradiation. Cardiotoxicity studies evaluating conduction node exposure might define dose constraints and criteria for additional cardiac-sparing techniques, such as respiratory techniques or proton therapy, which could benefit patients with underlying rhythmic or conduction disorders.