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Heart. 1999 March; 81(3): 308–312.
PMCID: PMC1728981

Chronic radiodermatitis following cardiac catheterisation: a report of two cases and a brief review of the literature

Abstract

Cardiac angiography produces one of the highest radiation exposures of any commonly used diagnostic x ray procedure. Recently, serious radiation induced skin injuries have been reported after repeated therapeutic interventional procedures using prolonged fluoroscopic imaging. Two male patients, aged 62 and 71 years, in whom chronic radiodermatitis developed one to two years after two consecutive cardiac catheterisation procedures are reported. Both patients had undergone lengthy procedures using prolonged fluoroscopic guidance in a limited number of projections. The resulting skin lesions were preceded, in one case, by an acute erythema and took the form of a delayed pigmented telangiectatic, indurated, or ulcerated plaque in the upper back or below the axilla whose site corresponded to the location of the x ray tube during cardiac catheterisation. Cutaneous side effects of radiation exposure result from direct damage to the irradiated tissue and have known thresholds. The diagnosis of radiation induced skin injury relies essentially on clinical and histopathological findings, location of skin lesions, and careful medical history. Interventional cardiologists should be aware of this complication, because chronic radiodermatitis may result in painful and resistant ulceration and eventually in squamous cell carcinoma.

Keywords: catheterisation; angiography; radiation; radiodermatitis; skin injury

Figure 1
Chronic radiodermatitis: telangiectatic, pigmented in case 1 and indurated lesion located below right axilla
Figure 2
Biopsy specimen from case 1 showing sclerosis of upper and middle dermis with ectatic blood vessels (haematoxylin and eosin, original magnification × 100).
Figure 3
Chronic radiodermatitis: pigmented plaque with a deep central ulcer located in the right subscapular region of case 2

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