Splenic irradiation for splenomegaly: A systematic review

Nicholas G. Zaorsky, Graeme R. Williams, Stefan K. Barta, Nestor F. Esnaola, Patricia L. Kropf, Shelly B. Hayes, Joshua E. Meyer

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


Splenic irradiation (SI) is a palliative treatment option for symptomatic splenomegaly (i.e. for pain, early satiety, pancytopenia from sequestration) secondary to hematologic malignancies and disorders. The purpose of the current article is to review the literature on SI for hematologic malignancies and disorders, including: (1) patient selection and optimal technique; (2) efficacy of SI; and (3) toxicities of SI. PICOS/PRISMA methods are used to select 27 articles including 766 courses of SI for 486 patients from 1960 to 2016. The most common cancers treated included chronic lymphocytic leukemia and myeloproliferative disorders; the most common regimen was 10 Gy in 1 Gy fractions over two weeks, and 27% of patients received retreatment. A partial or complete response (for symptoms, lab abnormalities) was obtained in 85–90% of treated patients, and 30% were retreated within 6–12 months. There was no correlation between biologically equivalent dose of radiation therapy and response duration, pain relief, spleen reduction, or cytopenia improvement (r2 all <0.4); therefore, lower doses (e.g. 5 Gy in 5 fractions) may be as effective as higher doses. Grade 3–4 toxicity (typically leukopenia, infection) was noted in 22% of courses, with grade 5 toxicity in 0.7% of courses. All grade 5 toxicities were due to either thrombocytopenia with hemorrhage or leukopenia with sepsis (or a combination of both); they were sequelae of cancer and not directly caused by SI. In summary, SI is generally a safe and efficacious method for treating patients with symptomatic splenomegaly.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)47-52
Number of pages6
JournalCancer Treatment Reviews
StatePublished - Feb 1 2017


  • Cancer
  • Leukemia
  • Lymphoma
  • Meta-analysis
  • Myelofibrosis
  • Palliation
  • Radiation oncology
  • Radiotherapy
  • Splenomegaly
  • Toxicity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging


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