To characterize structural and functional injuries following a single dose of whole-thorax irradiation that might be survivable after a nuclear attack/accident.
Rats were exposed to 5 or 10 Gy of X-rays to the whole thorax with other organs shielded. Non-invasive measurements of breathing rate and arterial oxygen saturation, and invasive evaluations of bronchoalveolar lavage fluid, (for total protein, Clara cell secretory protein), vascular reactivity and histology were conducted for at least 6 time points up to 52 wks after irradiation.
Irradiation with 10 Gy resulted in increased breathing rate, a reduction in oxygen saturation, an increase in bronchoalveolar lavage fluid protein and attenuation of vascular reactivity between 4–12 wks after irradiation. These changes were not observed with the lower dose of 5 Gy. Histological examination revealed perivascular edema at 4–8 wks after exposure to both doses, and mild fibrosis beyond 20 wks after 10 Gy.
Single-dose exposure of rat thorax to 10 but not 5 Gy X-irradiation resulted in a decrease in oxygen uptake and vasoreactivity and an increase in respiratory rate, which paralleled early pulmonary vascular pathology. Vascular edema resolved and was replaced by mild fibrosis beyond 20 wks after exposure, while lung function recovered.