• Radiation-induced carotid artery disease following high-dose (>50-Gy) radiotherapy for head and neck cancer may become more common as improved treatment results in longer survival. Duplex ultrasound scans were obtained in 91 consecutive patients to determine whether increased incidence and severity of extracranial carotid disease correlate with prior radiotherapy. Fifty-three patients who underwent radiotherapy an average of 28 months previously and 38 patients who received no radiotherapy were studied. Thirty percent of the irradiated group had lesions of the carotid arteries that were either moderate or severe vs only 6% of the control patients. Five patients were symptomatic; all had undergone radiotherapy. Long-term follow-up with sequential duplex ultrasound examinations is indicated in patients receiving high-dose radiotherapy for head and neck tumors, to detect radiation-induced carotid artery disease and prevent late sequelae.
(Arch Surg. 1990;125:1181-1183)