Radiation Necrosis Medication

Updated: Jul 20, 2021
  • Author: Gaurav Gupta, MD, FAANS, FACS; Chief Editor: Stephen L Nelson, Jr, MD, PhD, FAACPDM, FAAN, FAAP, FANA  more...
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Medication Summary

Medical therapy focuses on two mechanisms: controlling vasogenic edema and/or controlling vessel thrombosis.



Class Summary

Steroid therapy has only a temporary role in relieving neurologic decompensation and deficits. It relieves any symptomology related to vasogenic edema and disruption of the blood-brain barrier. While administering steroid therapy, the clinician must implement another medical or surgical therapy to treat radiation necrosis and to protect the patient from long-term complications.

Dexamethasone (Decadron, Dexasone)

Glucocorticoids such as dexamethasone have potent anti-inflammatory effects in many disorders. In addition to metabolic effects, they modify immune system response. Lacks salt-retaining property of hydrocortisone.

Patients can be switched from an IV to PO regimen in a 1:1 ratio.



Class Summary

Because radiation necrosis pathophysiology involves vessel thrombosis and subsequent occlusion, anticoagulant use has been proposed. [45] To date, few case studies have addressed use in this condition; the evidence for anticoagulation is very limited. Patients with radiation necrosis may also be at risk of intracranial hemorrhage, further limiting the presumptive benefits of this therapy. In most of these studies, histologic verification of radiation necrosis was present. Patients received 6 mo of IV heparin, then warfarin with aPTT and PT adjusted to 1.5 times the control. Patients had significant resolution of deficits. When anticoagulation was stopped, symptoms reemerged. Almost immediate resolution of symptoms occurred when anticoagulation was restarted. Before starting anticoagulation therapy, careful diagnostic evaluation and management are needed.


Augments activity of antithrombin III and prevents conversion of fibrinogen to fibrin. Does not actively lyse but is able to inhibit further thrombogenesis. Prevents reaccumulation of clot after spontaneous fibrinolysis. Check aPTT after the first 6 h, then periodically q4-6h in early treatment. Dosage is therapeutic when aPTT is adjusted to 1.5 times normal.

Warfarin (Coumadin)

Inhibits synthesis of vitamin K-dependent clotting factors (II, VII, IX, X) and anticoagulants (proteins C and S). Vitamin K is a cofactor for postribosomal synthesis of vitamin K-dependent clotting factors, which promote synthesis of gamma-carboxyglutamic acid (necessary for proper coagulation). Reportedly interferes with vitamin K epoxide regeneration. Peak anticoagulant effect is 72-96 h. Like other anticoagulants, warfarin has no effect on a preexisting thrombus.

Individualize dose in response to PT/INR and therapeutic goal. Periodic determination of PT/INR is required.


Monoclonal antibodies

Class Summary

Agents in this category are used to decrease blood supply to a tumor by inhibiting angiogenesis. [46, 47]

Bevacizumab (Avastin)

A recombinant, humanized antibody that inhibits vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF). VEGF has a significant role in angiogenesis and maintenance of existing blood vessels. By inhibiting VEGF, the antibody would interfere with the blood supply to a tumor, which is thought to be critical to tumor metastasis. By preventing VEGF from reaching leaky capillaries that are associated with brain swelling, bevacizumab may also help in radiation necrosis.

Fifteen patients with malignant brain tumors were treated with bevacizumab or bevacizumab combination n in one study.