Pulmonary radiotherapy has been reported to increase a risk of pneumonopathy, including pneumonitis and secondary pneumonia, however evidence from population-based studies is lacking. The present study intended to explore whether postoperative irradiation increases occurrence of severe pneumonopathy in lung cancer patients.
The nationwide population-based study analysed the Taiwan National Health Insurance Research Database (covered >99% of Taiwanese) in a real-world setting. From 2000 to 2010, 4335 newly diagnosed lung cancer patients were allocated into two groups: surgery-RT (n=867) and surgery-alone (n=3468). With a ratio of 1:4, propensity score was used to match 11 baseline factors to balance groups.
Irradiation was delivered to bronchial stump and mediastinum according to peer-audited guidelines.
Hospitalised pneumonia/pneumonitis-free survival was the primary end point. Risk factors and hazard effects were secondary measures.
Multivariable analysis identified five independent risk factors for hospitalised pneumonopathy: elderly (>65 years), male, irradiation, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and chronic kidney disease (CKD). Compared with surgery-alone, a higher risk of hospitalised pneumonopathy was found in surgery-RT patients (HR, 2.20; 95% CI, 1.93-2.51; 2-year hospitalised pneumonia/pneumonitis-free survival, 85.2% vs 69.0%; both p<0.0001), especially in elderly males with COPD and CKD (HR, 13.74; 95% CI, 6.61-28.53; p<0.0001). Unexpectedly, we observed a higher risk of hospitalised pneumonopathy in younger irradiated-CKD patients (HR, 13.07; 95% CI, 5.71-29.94; p<0.0001) than that of elderly irradiated-CKD patients (HR, 4.82; 95% CI, 2.88-8.08; p<0.0001).
A high risk of hospitalised pneumonopathy is observed in irradiated patients, especially in elderly males with COPD and CKD. For these patients, close clinical surveillance and aggressive pneumonia/pneumonitis prevention should be considered. Further investigations are required to define underlying biological mechanisms, especially for younger CKD patients.