Low-Dose Radiation Therapy for Benign Painful Skeletal Disorders: The Typical Treatment for the Elderly Patient?

July 15, 2017


To prospectively evaluate the short-term and long-term efficacy of low-dose radiation therapy (RT) for calcaneodynia, achillodynia, painful gonarthrosis, and painful bursitis trochanterica in elderly patients aged ≥70 years.


Between October 2011 and October 2013, patients aged ≥70 years with painful degenerative disorders of joints were recruited for a prospective trial. Single doses of 0.5 to 1.0 Gy and a total dose of 6.0 Gy per series were used. Pain was measured before and right after RT (early response) with a 10-point visual analogue scale. Additionally, pain relief was measured with the 4-point pain scale according to “von Pannewitz” immediately on completion of RT and during follow-up. We defined a good response as complete pain relief and markedly improved.


A total of 166 evaluable patients with a mean age of 76.6 years (range, 70-90 years) with calcaneodynia (n=51), achillodynia (n=8), painful gonarthrosis (n=80), and painful bursitis trochanterica (n=27) were recruited. The mean visual analogue scale value before treatment was 6.38 and immediately upon completion of RT was 4.49 (P<.001). Concerning the von Pannewitz status immediately on completion of RT, 6 patients were free of pain, 56 were much improved, 47 reported slight improvement, and 57 experienced no change. After a median follow-up of 29 months, 109 patients could be reached for evaluation of follow-up results. Thirty-three patients were free of pain, 21 had marked improvement, 18 had some improvement, and 37 experienced no change. Therefore, a good response immediately on completion of RT could be achieved in 62 of 166 patients, and with the follow-up in 54 of 109 patients (P=.001).


Low-dose RT is a very effective treatment for the management of painful degenerative disorders of joints in the elderly. Low-dose RT offers a low-risk, genuinely conservative, noninvasive therapeutic alternative for elderly patients.

Micke O, Seegenschmiedt MH, Adamietz IA, Kundt G, Fakhrian K, Schaefer U, Muecke R; German Cooperative Group on Radiotherapy for Nonmalignant Diseases (GCG-BD).

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