To study the quantitative effects of megavoltage external beam irradiation in a D-shaped field in patients with retinoblastoma, biomicroscopy was performed in 61 patients and tear function tests (Schirmer-lactoferrin and lysozyme tests) on 45 eyes in 34 irradiated patients. The results were compared with those obtained in 25 non-irradiated control eyes. The Schirmer test was significantly diminished (p < 0.001) in irradiated eyes, as were the lactoferrin and lysozyme values (p < 0.001). A mild to severe keratitis was found in 17 of the 61 patients (28%). A significant correlation (p < 0.005) was found between the severe keratitis and the mean Schirmer values; the mean lactoferrin and lysozyme values were diminished in all patients but did not correlate significantly with the corneal abnormalities. These quantitative data, obtained in patients treated for retinoblastoma, affirm the qualitative data found in patients irradiated for other reasons such as orbital or sinus tumours. Irradiation for retinoblastoma is not a harmless treatment and serious late side effects have to be considered.
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