Cerebral hemodynamic and metabolic dysregulation in the postradiation brain.
Technological advances in the delivery of radiation and other novel cancer therapies have significantly improved the 5-year survival rates over the last few decades. Although recent developments have helped to better manage the acute effects of radiation, the late effects such as impairment in cognition continue to remain of concern. Accruing data in the literature have implicated derangements in hemodynamic parameters and metabolic activity of the irradiated normal brain as predictive of cognitive impairment. Multiparametric imaging modalities have allowed us to precisely quantify functional and metabolic information, enhancing the anatomic and morphologic data provided by conventional MRI sequences, thereby contributing as noninvasive imaging-based biomarkers of radiation-induced brain injury. In this review, we have elaborated on the mechanisms of radiation-induced brain injury and discussed several novel imaging modalities, including MR spectroscopy, MR perfusion imaging, functional MR, SPECT, and PET that provide pathophysiological and functional insights into the postradiation brain, and its correlation with radiation dose as well as clinical neurocognitive outcomes. Additionally, we explored some innovative imaging modalities, such as quantitative blood oxygenation level-dependent imaging, susceptibility-based oxygenation measurement, and T2-based oxygenation measurement, that hold promise in delineating the potential mechanisms underlying deleterious neurocognitive changes seen in the postradiation setting. We aim that this comprehensive review of a range of imaging modalities will help elucidate the hemodynamic and metabolic injury mechanisms underlying cognitive impairment in the irradiated normal brain in order to optimize treatment regimens and improve the quality of life for these patients.