Home About us Editorial board Ahead of print Current issue Search Archives Submit article Instructions Subscribe Contacts Login 

 Table of Contents  
Year : 2007  |  Volume : 3  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 12-16

Age related macular degeneration: A study of patients managed with radiotherapy

1 Department of Radiation Oncology, Tata Memorial Hospital, Mumbai, India
2 Zen Eye Center, Mumbai, India

Correspondence Address:
Anusheel Munshi
Department of Radiation Oncology, Tata Memorial Hospital, Parel, Mumbai
Login to access the Email id

Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/0973-1482.31965

Rights and Permissions
 > Abstract 

Introduction: Age-related macular degeneration (ARMD) is the leading cause of blindness in the west. Radiotherapy affects the evolution of exudative macular degeneration directly by its effect on the endothelium and inflammation modulation. We conducted a retrospective study to evaluate the improvement in visual acuity and healing of sub retinal neovascular membrane (SRNV) following fractionated radiotherapy.
Materials and Methods: 47 patients (58 eyes) of ARMD were retrospectively analyzed. One of the following radiotherapy fractionation schedules was employed in all the patients in this study. a) 15 Gy /5 fractions/1 week (five patients) b) 20 Gy/5 fractions/1 week (19 patients) c) 22.5Gy/5 fractions/1 week (21 patients) d) 25 Gy/5 fractions/1 week (two patients). VA and funduscopy was taken at each follow-up for objective improvement and to assess the healing of SRNV.
Results: The median follow-up was 7.23 months. The mean improvement in the VA in the entire group was of 0.44 line. (Median 1, SD 1.04). Overall 75% of the eyes showed either steady vision or an improvement in subjective vision analysis. The deterioration free survival was significantly better in the group that had a relatively short duration of symptoms ( P =0.01). Scarring at presentation was a significant adverse factor for improvement in vision after radiotherapy ( P = 0.001).
Conclusions: In patients of ARMD treated with radiotherapy, the initial duration of symptoms and scarring of eyes at presentation were significant prognostic variables for improvement in VA after radiotherapy.

Keywords: Age-related macular degeneration, radiotherapy

How to cite this article:
Munshi A, Sarin R, Dudhani A, Dinshaw KA. Age related macular degeneration: A study of patients managed with radiotherapy. J Can Res Ther 2007;3:12-6

How to cite this URL:
Munshi A, Sarin R, Dudhani A, Dinshaw KA. Age related macular degeneration: A study of patients managed with radiotherapy. J Can Res Ther [serial online] 2007 [cited 2021 Jun 24];3:12-6. Available from: https://www.cancerjournal.net/text.asp?2007/3/1/12/31965

Trials using radiotherapy in age-related macular degeneration

Click here to view
Trials using radiotherapy in age-related macular degeneration

Click here to view
Univariate analysis for various factors as determinants for improvement in visual acuity

Click here to view
Univariate analysis for various factors as determinants for improvement in visual acuity

Click here to view
Patient impression and change in visual acuty for
all analysable patients

Click here to view
Patient impression and change in visual acuty for
all analysable patients

Click here to view
Patient characteristics

Click here to view
Patient characteristics

Click here to view

 > Introduction Top

Treatment of benign disease by ionizing radiations has always aroused keen interest. One such important condition is age-related macular degeneration (ARMD). This disease is the leading cause of blindness in the west and it's prevalence varies from 1% in patients aged 65 to 74 years, to 10% in patients aged 85 onwards.[1],[2] It is however a lesser known cause of blindness in the Indian subcontinent, behind commoner conditions such as cataract. There are three major forms of macular degeneration. i) Dry form ii) wet form iii) Pigment epithelial detachment (PED). The dry form, which accounts for 85-90% of patients with ARMD, involves thinning of the macula. Usually no effective treatment is available for this disease. In the wet form (10%) abnormal vessels grow under the retina and lift the retina up.[2] This is known as subretinal neovascularisation (SRNV). ARMD may lead to loss of vision by atrophy of the retinal pigment epithelium or by the development of choroidal neovascular membranes (CNVM) under the macula, which leak serous fluid and blood and ultimately cause a blinding disciform scar. Options currently being investigated fall into two main approaches: elimination or modification of the CNVM (by laser, chemotherapeutic agents, photodynamic therapy, transpupillary thermotherapy, feeder vessel photocoagulation or novel techniques such as submacular surgery and macular translocation) or prevention of the formation of CNVM (by laser prophylaxis, diet or gene targeting.[3] Whilst almost no therapy restores normal visual acuity (VA), any significant visual improvement or even maintenance of the VA over the natural history may be regarded as beneficial . Radiation therapy has been used in treatment of this disorder with varying results ever since the first trial reported by Chakravorty et al .[1] Radiotherapy affects the evolution of exudative macular degeneration directly by endothelial toxicity, leading to capillary closure and/or indirectly through its attenuating effects on the inflammatory response, mediated by macrophages and other inflammatory cells.[4],[5] We conducted this study to see the response and the toxicity of radiotherapy in the treatment of this disease and to evaluate the role of other factors determining response to radiotherapy. We also intended to see if there was any dose response effect of radiation.

 > Materials and methods Top

63 patients were enrolled in this retrospective study. The inclusion criteria for this study were 1) Patients were not considered suitable for LASER photocoagulation by the referring ophthalmologist due to subfoveal location 2) Eyes having sub retinal neovascular membrane 3) Increase in size in neovascular membrane during the past six months or onset of symptoms lesser than six months 4) Age greater than 30 years 5) Patients willing for radiotherapy. In all cases, the initial work up included a detailed history and the total duration of symptoms, history of smoking, diabetes mellitus and hypertension. Pretreatment ophthalmologic evaluation included detailed examination of the fundi, VA and Fundus fluorescein angiography (FFA) in all the cases. All the patients were explained the investigative nature of the study and informed consent was obtained. Of the 63 ARMD patients seen in our hospital, 16 did not receive radiotherapy. Reasons for this were varied and included patients lost after first outpatient visit, patients who were not given radiotherapy because their vision remained stable over past six months or more and patients who were unwilling for radiotherapy and opted for other forms of treatment. One patient was 24 years of age and was not treated in view of the rare occurrence of ARMD in this age group. In the final analysis only 47 remaining patients were considered. Since 11 patients had bilateral involvement so in all 58 eyes were treated.

Radiation treatment

In each patient, immobilization was achieved by use of thermoplastic mask. CT planning was done for all patients in the supine position and fiducial radio-opaque markers placed at the lateral canthi. All the relevant structures such as the lens, posterior retina and the contra lateral eye were outlined. It was ensured that the 90% isodose adequately covered the ipsilateral macula and optic disc, with less that 50% falling on the ipsilateral posterior lens capsule. Patients were treated most commonly with a single lateral portal with 5-15 degree posterior tilt [Figure - 1]. Asymmetric fields of 33 cm size were used in all the patients to prevent divergence into the opposite eye. The other portals, which were used were true lateral portals (in patients where the opposite eye or lens was not a consideration) or bilateral fields (in patients in which both eyes were simultaneously treated). One of the following radiotherapy fractionation schedules was employed in all the patients in this dose escalation study. a) 15 Gy/5#/1 week (five patients) b) 20 Gy/5#/1 week (19 patients) c) 22.5Gy/5#/1 week (21 patients) d) 25 Gy/5#/1 week (2 patients). The dose was prescribed at Dmax in the patients treated with ipsilateral technique. In patients who were treated with bilateral parallel opposing portals the dose was prescribed at the mid separation. All the patients completed the planned radiotherapy as scheduled.

Patients were seen at follow-up monthly for three months, three monthly for the first year and subsequently every six months. At each follow-up, both the ophthalmologist and the radiation oncologist evaluated the patient. The response was graded subjectively as 1) no change 2) worse 3) better. VA and funduscopy was taken by the qualified ophthalmologist was repeated at each follow-up for objective improvement and to assess the healing of SRNV.


The analysis was done using SPSS software (version 10). The deterioration free survival was calculated using Kaplan Meyer survival analysis. Long rank test was used to compare the groups in the survival analysis. The Chi square test was used to see the significance of other factors affecting the response to radiation.

 > Results Top

Patient characteristics are given in [Table - 1]. The median follow up was 7.23 months (SD 9.67).

The mean improvement in the VA in the entire group was of 0.44 line. (Median 1, SD 1.04). Overall 75% of the eyes showed either steady vision or an improvement in subjective vision. Improved or steady VA was recorded in 77% of the eyes [Table - 2]. In the present study, there was no gain in line once the symptom duration had crossed 10 months. [Figure - 2] presents the relation between initial duration of symptoms and gain/loss of lines in VA.

The deterioration free survival was significantly different in the group that had a relatively short duration of symptoms (<4 months) compared to the group having longer duration of symptoms (>4 months). (Log rank P =0.01) [Figure - 3]. [Figure - 4] presents the graphical comparison of patients who received a higher dose of RT (group a and b) compared to those who received lower dose (group a and b).

The univariate analysis for various factors did not show any significance for variables such as initial VA and dose of radiotherapy delivered. However the duration of initial symptoms and the presence or absence of initial scarring was highly significant. ( P =0.003) [Table - 3].

 > Discussion Top

We found that duration of initial symptoms had a profound effect on shown to be important and significant as a prognostic variable for visual stability of improvement. This is explained by the fact that the neovasculature structure will be more susceptible to radiotherapy in early stages rather that when the active proliferation has settled and had been replaced by fibrosis or scarring. This finding strengthens the belief that radiotherapy in ARMD should be started as soon as possible. On the same lines, even initial scarring which is an indicator of the duration of the ARMD onset is a significant variable. Fibrotic and scarred retinas have much less proloferative tissues and hence poor response to radiotherapy.

Although there is a definite dose response curve with increasing dose of radiotherapy, the difference between response to low or high dose does not attain significance. However factors such as age and sex were not found to have any bearing on radiotherapy response. Smoking, diabetes and hypertension too were not observed as risk factors, though the absolute numbers are small. Initial visual acuty has also been suggested to be an important prognostic determinant of the benefit from radiotherapy. Our study has not demonstrated this to be a significant independent variable.

In our study, as many as 74% of the analysed subjects had either stable or improved vision at last follow up and this compares very favorably with historical controls.[1],[6],[7] Similarly 77% patients have shown objective response to radiotherapy (in visual acuity).

Some authors have found a discrepancy between improvement in CRNV and improvement in visual acuity. One study concluded that although radiation inhibits CRNV, its effectiveness in improving VA might not be evident.[6]

Various groups have reported their results on the course and response of ARMD patients to radiotherapy. The results have been variable and in most of the series the numbers are small and the follow up short. Also different doses and fractionation schedules have been employed and therefore it is hardly surprising that the results have been varied. Subjective means, VA and FFA have usually assessed response. [Table - 4] presents important studies in ARMD using radiotherapy as the treatment modality. Most of the nonrandomized and randomized studies have shown a dose response effect in ARMD with a demonstrable benefit with using radiotherapy. The only randomized controlled trial that did not show a clear benefit was by Marcus.[9] However, they used low BED (14Gy/7#). We have used a dose higher that this in nearly half of our patients. Although this group has shown higher VA improvement in our study, this difference is not significant in our analysis. It may be important to stratify the cases before for initial duration of symptoms and perhaps even initial VA before they are randomized for different radiotherapy dose regimes.

Studies analyzing the effect of giving a higher dose of radiotherapy as compared to a lower dose too have demonstrated benefit with the former.[10],[14] In one study comparing two groups of patients who were treated with a high or a low dose of radiotherapy (10 and 20 gray), there was no difference in the response rates, However, the number of subjects was quite small.[15] Other groups such as Gelisken et al have indicated that radiotherapy can be effective in regressing the leakage of the CNV in ARMD. However, despite treatment visual deterioration could continue and new CNV lesions still develop.[16] Altered fractionation too needs to be explored to finally arrive at the final optimal fractionation in treating ARMD. While hypo fractionation may be beneficial since the targeted tissues (arterioles) are essentially radioresistant and by providing a short treatment time, hyperfractionation may benefit by sparing late effects especially retinal sequelae besides being beneficial for the acutely proliferating neovasculature. In a solitary study of its kind, Marcus found a benefit of using (3GyX 5 fractions) compared to (2GyX 7 fractions).[14]

Possible toxic effects on critical structures such as lens and retina are always of concern while irradiating the eye. Cataract as a complication of radiotherapy to the eye is known to occur six months to several years after treatment. It usually occurs in eyes that receive doses of 400cGy of more though it has been reported to occur with a dose of 200cGy or lower.[17] There is evidence to believe that radiation in a dose of less that 25 gray does not affect the normal retina.[18] Radiation induced cataractogenesis however, is a well known in eyes irradiated to this dose range.[19],[20] Our precision technique allows the contralateral eye and the ipsilateral anterior chamber to be spared while adequately covering the area of interest. In our study however, in spite of giving a higher dose in some subjects, there has been no increase in early or late toxicity in any patient. No fresh cataractous changes were discovered in any of the patient who did not have such manifestation at presentation, even in the patients in whom higher doses of radiation were used.

Many questions remain to be answered. What is the optimal dose and fractionation schedule for ARMD? When should radiotherapy be initiated in patients? Is reirradiation possible? Can photocoagulation or other treatment modality be combined with radiotherapy for better results? The need of the hour is to conduct prospective trials in this regard so that optimal benefit with radiotherapy can be achieved while keeping the toxic effects to the bare minimum.

 > References Top

1.Chakravarthy U, Houston RF, Archer DB. Treatment of age related sub-foveal neovascular membranes by teletherapy: A pilot study. Br J Ophthalmol 1993;77:265-73.  Back to cited text no. 1
2.Custis PH, Bressler SB, Bressler NM. Laser management of subfoveal choroidal neovascularization in age related macular degeneration. Curr Opin Ophthalmol 1993;4:7-18.  Back to cited text no. 2
3.Votruba M, Gregor Z. Neovascular age-related macular degeneration: Present and future treatment options. Eye 2001;15:424-9.  Back to cited text no. 3
4.Age related macular degeneration. Macular photocoagulation Study Group. Am J Ophthalmol 1984;98:376-7.  Back to cited text no. 4
5.Lambooij AC, Kuijpers RW, Mooy CM, Kliffen M. Radiotherapy of exudative age-related macular degeneration: A clinical and pathologic study. Graefes Arch Clin Exp Ophthalmol 2001;239: 539-43.  Back to cited text no. 5
6.Matsuhashi H, Noda Y, Takahashi D, Mariya Y. Radiation therapy for small choroidal neovascularization in age-related macular degeneration. Jpn J Ophthalmol 2000;44:653-60.  Back to cited text no. 6
7.Char DH, Irvine AI, Posner MD, Quivey J, Phillips TL, Kroll S. Randomized trial of radiation for age-related macular degeneration. Am J Ophthalmol 1999;127:574-8.  Back to cited text no. 7
8.Kobayashi H, Kobayashi K. Age-related macular degeneration: Long-term results of radiotherapy for subfoveal neovascular membranes. Am J Ophthalmol 2000;130:617-35.  Back to cited text no. 8
9.Marcus DM, Sheils W, Johnson MH, McIntosh SB, Leibach DB, Maguire A, et al . External beam irradiation of subfoveal choroidal neovascularization complicating age-related macular degeneration: One-year results of a prospective, double-masked, randomized clinical trial. Arch Ophthalmol 2001;119:171-80.  Back to cited text no. 9
10.Valmaggia C, Ries G, Ballinari P. Radiotherapy for subfoveal choroidal neovascularization in age-related macular degeneration: A randomized clinical trial. Am J Ophthalmol 2002;133:521-9.   Back to cited text no. 10
11.Ciulla TA, Danis RP, Klein SB, Malinovsky VE, Soni PS, Pratt LM, et al . Proton therapy for exudative age-related macular degeneration: A randomized, sham-controlled clinical trial. Am J Ophthalmol 2002;134:905-6.  Back to cited text no. 11
12.Barak A, Hauser D, Yipp P, Morse L, Leigh B, Kubo D, et al . A phase I trial of Stereotactic external beam radiation for subfoveal choroidal neovascular membranes in age-related macular degeneration. Br J Radiol 2005;78:827-31.  Back to cited text no. 12
13.Churei H, Ohkubo K, Nakajo M, Hokotate H, Baba Y, Ideue J, et al . External-beam radiation therapy for age-related macular degeneration: Two years' follow-up results at a total dose of 20 Gy in 10 fractions. Radiat Med 2004;22:398-404.  Back to cited text no. 13
14.Marcus DM, Sheils WC, Young JO, McIntosh SB, Johnson MH, Alexander J, et al . Radiotherapy for recurrent choroidal neovascularisation complicating age related macular degeneration. Br J Ophthalmol 2004;88:114-9.  Back to cited text no. 14
15.Mandai M, Takahashi M, Miyamoto H, Hiroshiba N, Kimura H, Ogura Y, et al . Long term outcome agter radiation therapy for subfoveal choroidal neovascularisation associated with age related macular degeneration. Jpn J Opthalmol 2000;44:530-7.  Back to cited text no. 15
16.Gelisken O, Yazici B. Radiation therapy in exudative age-related macular degeneration. Semin Ophthalmol 1999;14:27-34.  Back to cited text no. 16
17.Shanmungam MP, Sharma T. External beam irradiation in the management of choroidal hemangioma. Indian J Ophthalmol 1997;45:45-8.  Back to cited text no. 17
18.Chakravarthy U, Gardiner TA, Archer DB, Maguire CJ. Focal irradiation of perforating eye injuries with iodine 125 plaques. Curr Eye Res 1989;8:337-47.  Back to cited text no. 18
19.Eter N, Wegener A, Schuller H, Spitznas M. Radiotherapy for age related macular degeneration causes transient lens transparency changes. Br J Ophthalmol 2000;84:757-60.  Back to cited text no. 19
20.Arkmansu M, Dirican B, Ozturk B, Egehan I, Subasi M, Or M. External radiotherapy in macular degeneration: Our technique, dosimetric calculation and preliminary results. Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys 1998;40:923-7.  Back to cited text no. 20


  [Figure - 1], [Figure - 2], [Figure - 3], [Figure - 4]

  [Table - 1], [Table - 2], [Table - 3], [Table - 4]

This article has been cited by
1 Radiation Therapy for Neovascular Age-related Macular Degeneration
Amar U. Kishan,Bobeck S. Modjtahedi,Lawrence S. Morse,Percy Lee
International Journal of Radiation Oncology*Biology*Physics. 2013; 85(3): 583
[Pubmed] | [DOI]
2 Radiation therapy for neovascular age-related macular degeneration
Kishan, A.U. and Modjtahedi, B.S. and Morse, L.S. and Lee, P.
International Journal of Radiation Oncology Biology Physics. 2013; 85(3): 583-597
3 Stereotactic targeting and dose verification for age-related macular degeneration
Michael Gertner, Erik Chell, Kuang-Hung Pan, Steve Hansen, Peter K. Kaiser, Darius M. Moshfeghi
Medical Physics. 2010; 37(2): 600-606
[Pubmed] | [DOI]


Similar in PUBMED
   Search Pubmed for
   Search in Google Scholar for
 Related articles
Access Statistics
Email Alert *
Add to My List *
* Registration required (free)

  >Abstract>Introduction>Materials and me...>Results>Discussion>Article Figures>Article Tables
  In this article

 Article Access Statistics
    PDF Downloaded474    
    Comments [Add]    
    Cited by others 3    

Recommend this journal