A longitudinal study on parotid and submandibular gland changes assessed by magnetic resonance imaging and ultrasonography in post-radiotherapy nasopharyngeal cancer patients

Vincent W.C Wu, Michael TC Ying, Dora LW Kwong, Pek-Lan Khong, Gary KW Wong, Shing-yau Tam

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review


Objectives: With regard to the intensity modulated radiotherapy (IMRT) of nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC) patients, this longitudinal study evaluated the radiation-induced changes in the parotid and submandibular glands in terms of gland size, echogenicity and haemodynamic parameters. Methods: 21 NPC patients treated by IMRT underwent MRI and ultrasound scans before radiotherapy, and at 6, 12, 18 and 24 months after treatment. Parotid and submandibular gland volumes were measured from the MRI images, whereas the parotid echogenicity and haemodynamic parameters including the resistive index, pulsatility index, peak systolic velocity and end diastolic velocity were evaluated by ultrasonography. Trend lines were plotted to show the pattern of changes. The correlations of gland doses and the post-RT changes were also studied. Results: The volume of the parotid and submandibular glands demonstrated a significant drop from pre-RT to 6 months post-RT. The parotid gland changed from hyperechoic before RT to either isoechoic or hypoechoic after treatment. The resistive index and pulsatility index decreased from pre-RT to 6 month post-RT, then started to increase at 12 month time interval. Both peak systolic velocity and end diastolic velocity increased after 6 months post-RT then followed a decreasing trend up to 24 months post-RT. There was mild correlation between post-RT gland dose and gland volume, but not with haemodynamic changes. Conclusions: Radiation from IMRT caused shrinkage of parotid and submandibular glands in NPC patients. It also changed the echogenicity and vascular condition of the parotid gland. The most significant changes were observed at 6 months after radiotherapy. Advances in knowledge: It is the first paper that reports on the longitudinal changes of salivary gland volume, echogenicity and haemodynamic parameters altogether in NPC patients after radiotherapy. The results are useful for the prediction of glandular changes that is associated with xerostomia, which help to provide timely management of the complication when the patients attend follow-up visits.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)20200003
Number of pages1
JournalBJR open
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2 Sep 2020

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