Radiation Injury

Medical Condition

Alternate Names

Osteoradionecrosis, Soft Tissue Radionecrosis or Radiation Burns


Radiation Injury

Associated Anatomy: Bones and Tissue


Radiation injury is localized injury to tissue of bone that is caused by repeated exposure to ionizing radiation used to treat various forms of cancer. Radiation injury can also occur from overexposure to the sun’s rays and tanning beds. Symptoms of radiation injury are dependent on the amount and length of time of the exposure. Over time accumulation of injury kills tissue cells and decreases their ability to repair themselves leading to open wounds and excessive scar tissue. A common site of bone injury due to radiation (osteoradionecrosis) if the jaw. Patients with this type of radiation injury will require extensive HBOT treatment prior to having any kind of dental work.

Sign or Symptoms:

Symptoms usually appear following radiation treatment. Initially, individuals may notice rash formation at the site of injury, redness, a burning sensation, dryness and itching. Other symptoms are dependent upon the action of injury. For instance, individuals receiving treatment to the head and neck may notice symptoms of dry mouth if saliva glands are located in the area of radiation treatment or difficulty swallowing (odynophagia) if the throat is involved. Others may have gastrointestinal symptoms if the area of treatment included the abdomen.

Possible Treatment:

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) is often used in patients with radiation injury to stimulate the growth of new blood vessels (angiogenesis) in the injured tissue or bone. Optimal growth of the new vessels occurs around the twentieth treatment to re­establish the necessary blood flow for collagen production and healing.

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