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Complications of peripheral nerve irradiation

Brian Kavanagh, MD, MPH
Section Editor
Jerome B Posner, MD
Deputy Editor
April F Eichler, MD, MPH


Radiation therapy can cause toxicity to either the central or peripheral nervous system when these structures are included in the treatment field. Nervous system toxicity is usually subdivided into acute (during the course of radiation), early delayed (weeks to three months after radiation), and delayed reaction (more than three months).

Damage to peripheral nerves secondary to radiation is a rare but significant complication of treatment. Plexopathies are most often described in the brachial or lumbosacral plexus, and include three distinct clinical syndromes: a reversible or transient plexopathy, a classic delayed, progressive radiation injury/fibrosis, and an acute ischemic plexopathy [1]. In addition, radiation-induced cranial nerve injury has been reported, generally at doses exceeding 60 Gy [2].

The complications that can occur following irradiation of peripheral nerves will be reviewed here. Other relevant topics include:

Complications of cranial irradiation (see "Acute complications of cranial irradiation" and "Delayed complications of cranial irradiation")

Complications of spinal cord irradiation (see "Complications of spinal cord irradiation")


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Literature review current through: Oct 2015. | This topic last updated: Sep 28, 2012.
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