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How to prevent and manage radiation-induced coronary artery disease
  1. Jason R Cuomo1,
  2. Sean P Javaheri1,
  3. Gyanendra K Sharma1,
  4. Deepak Kapoor1,
  5. Adam E Berman1,
  6. Neal L Weintraub2
  1. 1 Department of Medicine, Division of Cardiology, Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University, Augusta, Georgia, USA
  2. 2 Department of Medicine, Division of Cardiology, Vascular Biology Center, Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University, Augusta, Georgia, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr. Neal L Weintraub; nweintraub{at}


Radiation-induced coronary heart disease (RICHD) is the second most common cause of morbidity and mortality in patients treated with radiotherapy for breast cancer, Hodgkin’s lymphoma and other prevalent mediastinal malignancies. The risk of RICHD increases with radiation dose. Exposed patients may present decades after treatment with manifestations ranging from asymptomatic myocardial perfusion defects to ostial, triple-vessel disease and sudden cardiac death. RICHD is insidious, with a long latency and a tendency to remain silent late into the disease course. Vessel involvement is often diffuse and is preferentially proximal. The pathophysiology is similar to that of accelerated atherosclerosis, characterised by the formation of inflammatory plaque with high collagen and fibrin content. The presence of conventional risk factors potentiates RICHD, and aggressive risk factor management should ideally be initiated prior to radiation therapy. Stress echocardiography is more sensitive and specific than myocardial perfusion imaging in the detection of RICHD, and CT coronary angiography shows promise in risk stratification. Coronary artery bypass grafting is associated with higher risks of graft failure, perioperative complications and all-cause mortality in patients with RICHD. In most cases, the use of drug-eluting stents is preferable to surgical intervention, bare metal stenting or balloon-angioplasty alone.

  • cardiac catheterization and angiography
  • cardiac risk factors and prevention
  • coronary artery disease
  • percutaneous coronary intervention

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  • Contributors All of the authors listed above have contributed substantially to the research, drafting and editing of this article.

  • Funding This work was supported by National Institutes of Health grants HL112640, HL126949, HL134354 and AR070029 to NLW.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; internally peer reviewed.

  • Data sharing statement Not applicable.

  • Correction notice Since this paper was first published online figure 2 has been resupplied. The updated version includes the following copyright line @ 2018 Lynsey Ekema, MSMI, CMI Augusta University.

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