Prognostic factors in the radiotherapy of graves' ophthalmopathy

Ivy A. Petersen, Joseph P. Kriss, I. Ross McDougall, Sarah S. Donaldson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

122 Scopus citations


Between April 1968 and February 1988, 311 patients with symptomatic and progressive Graves' ophthalmopathy were treated with megavoltage orbital radiotherapy. The patients were divided into three groups: I (156 patients) treated with 20 Gy/2 weeks; II (69 patients) treated with 30 Gy/3 weeks, and III (a most recent set of 86 patients) received 20 Gy/2 weeks. The degree of eye involvement was evaluated numerically before and after therapy for each of five parameters: soft tissue signs, proptosis, eye muscle impairment, corneal involvement, and sight loss. Pre-treatment and current thyroid diagnosis and status were also noted. To evaluate the effects of radiotherapy alone, follow-up was terminated at the time any eye surgery was done; for those not treated surgically the minimum follow-up was 12 months. Because there were significant demographic differences between the patient groups, the results of each group were analyzed separately. A stepwise linear regression analysis was performed to determine if there were any significant variables affecting outcome. Based on these data formulae were derived which enable outcome to be predicted in any patient. Before therapy more than 90% of patients in all groups had soft tissue and eye muscle involvement, whereas 65-75% had proptosis and about half 50% had some degree of sight loss. Radiotherapy arrested progression of ophthalmic parameters in all but 1-6% of the patients. Objective and symptomatic improvement was noted for all parameters assessed, but there was marked individual variability. The best responses were noted for soft tissue, corneal involvement, and sight loss; however over half the patients had some improvement in eye muscle function and proptosis. Factors which resulted in less favorable outcome included male gender, advanced age, need for concurrent therapy for hyperthyroidism, and no history of hyperthyroidism. No complications have been observed. No significant differences in outcome were observed between the two dosage schedules. Following radiotherapy 29% of patients subsequently underwent some form of eye surgery, mostly eye muscle surgery to correct diplopia. After radiotherapy corticosteroid therapy was stopped without relapse in 76%. Orbital radiotherapy can result in improvement in signs and symptoms of Graves' ophthalmopathy in the majority of patients. For the remainder of patients the disease manifestations can be stabilized to allow functional surgical correction.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)259-264
Number of pages6
JournalInternational journal of radiation oncology, biology, physics
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 1990


  • Benign disease
  • Graves' disease
  • Graves' ophthalmopathy
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Radiotherapy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiation
  • Oncology
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Cancer Research


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