Sunday, January 24, 2010

Horrible radiation injuries in NYC - One more reason Plastic Surgeons do not like radiation therapy

The bane of existence for plastic surgeons who treat breast cancer is the deliverence of external beam radiation (XRT) after surgery. It creates a hostile environment in the tissue exacerbating stiffening of the skin and scar formation. Above all else, it is the most disruptive factor for getting good results from breast reconstruction surgery.

The negative experiences of plastic surgeons with XRT in this setting has produced the interesting survey results among us, that we would overwhelmingly suggest our spouse (or self in the case of women plastic surgeons) get a mastectomy instead of lumpectomy and XRT.  Most women recieving mastectomy would not be suggested XRT except in rare instance involving more aggressive tumors, innvolvement of the chest wall, or extensive spread to the armpit (axillary) lymph nodes. In contrast, European physicians are much more likely to perscribe XRT to the chest and axillae. The practice patterns have to do with how the different countries interpret the same literature regarding this practice. IMO, the rationale Europeans emply to justify XRT is pretty sketchy and is hard to show much difference in outcomes.

On the front page of the New York Times today (click here) is an absolutely horrifying story on the frequent misdosing of patients recieving XRT in the NYC metro area entitled, "Radiation Offers New Cures, and Ways to Do Harm ". Some of the stories are jaw-dropping in how the series of events led to serious adverse events. It is absolutely incovievable that the delivery of XRT, a largely computer driven process, should be doing this. The number of radiation therapists, nurses, and techs who had to drop the ball or ignore clear warnings for these events to happen is staggering. Heads will roll in the Big Apple hospitals for this!


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