FLAIR and T2 weighted MRIs are used based on institutional preference to delineate high grade gliomas and surrounding edema for radiation treatment planning. Although these sequences have inherent physical differences there is limited data on the clinical and dosimetric impact of using either or both sequences.
40 patients with high grade gliomas consecutively treated between 2002 and 2008 of which 32 had pretreatment MRIs with T1, T2 and FLAIR available for review were selected for this study. These MRIs were fused with the treatment planning CT. Normal structures, clinical tumor volume (CTV) and planning tumor volume (PTV) were then defined on the T2 and FLAIR sequences. A Venn diagram analysis was performed for each pair of tumor volumes as well as a fractional component analysis to assess the contribution of each sequence to the union volume. For each patient the tumor volumes were compared in terms of total volume in cubic centimeters as well as anatomic location using a discordance index. The overlap of the tumor volumes with critical structures was calculated as a measure of predicted toxicity. For patients with MRI documented failures, the tumor volumes obtained using the different sequences were compared with the recurrent gross tumor volume (rGTV).
The FLAIR CTVs and PTVs were significantly larger than the T2 CTVs and PTVs (p<0.0001 and p=0.0001 respectively). Based on the discordance index, the abnormality identified using the different sequences also differed in location. Fractional component analysis showed that the intersection of the tumor volumes as defined on both T2 and FLAIR defined the majority of the union volume contributing 63.6% to the CTV union and 82.1% to the PTV union. T2 alone uniquely identified 12.9% and 5.2% of the CTV and PTV unions respectively while FLAIR alone uniquely identified 25.7% and 12% of the CTV and PTV unions respectively. There was no difference in predicted toxicity to normal structures using T2 or FLAIR. At the time of analysis, 26 failures had occurred of which 19 patients had MRIs documenting the recurrence. The rGTV correlated best with the FLAIR CTV but the percentage overlap was not significantly different from that with T2. There was no statistical difference in the percentage overlap with the rGTV and the PTVs generated using either T2 or FLAIR.
Although both T2 and FLAIR MRI sequences are used to define high grade glial neoplasm and surrounding edema, our results show that the volumes generated using these techniques are different and not interchangeable. These differences have bearing on the use of intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) and highly conformal treatment as well as on future clinical trials where the bias of using one technique over the other may influence the study outcome.
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