Reexpansion of atelectasis caused by use of continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) before radiation therapy (RT)

Sarit Appel, Noam Weizman, Tima Davidson, Damien Urban, Yaacov Richard Lawrence, Zvi Symon, Jeffrey Goldstein*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Introduction: Although radiation therapy (RT) is an effective treatment for malignant atelectasis, its accurate delivery is challenging because of difficulty differentiating between tumor and atelectatic lung. Furthermore, reexpansion of lung during treatment repositions tumor and normal structures necessitating replanning to ensure treatment accuracy. Facilitating lung reexpansion before initiation of RT may improve RT treatment accuracy, spare normal tissue, and reduce obstructive symptoms. We report a case of reexpansion of right upper lobe (RUL) atelectasis caused by use of continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) before RT. Case report: A 52-year-old woman presented with dyspnea and cough. Imaging studies showed an RUL mass with atelectasis. Bronchoscopy showed extrinsic compression of the RUL and middle lobe bronchi. Biopsy showed small cell lung cancer. Staging with positron emission tomography-computed tomography (CT) and contrast enhanced CT of brain showed no other disease. Following 4 cycles of platinum-based chemotherapy, CT imaging showed a decrease in tumor volume, but persistent RUL atelectasis. She agreed to participate in an institutional study to evaluate the use of CPAP to reduce respiratory motion and immobilize tumors during RT. During CPAP training, she complained of vertigo, headache, and weakness and refused simulation. The next day she reported less dyspnea and completed training and CT simulation without difficulty. CT simulation with CPAP showed reexpansion of the RUL. Lung volume increased from 2170 to 3767 mL (74 %). Gross tumor volume, clinical volume, and planning volume decreased 46%, 45%, and 38%, respectively. Mean lung dose and mean heart dose decreased 20% and 51%, respectively. CPAP was used daily for 1 hour before and during treatment. Cone beam CT scans showed that the RUL remained inflated throughout treatment. Conclusion: This is the first reported use of CPAP for reexpansion of atelectasis before RT planning and treatment. Reexpansion of atelectasis improved RT planning, decreased dose to uninvolved lung, and removed the need for replanning. Further study of CPAP as an initial intervention to improve RT delivery in patients with malignant atelectasis is warranted.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)136-140
Number of pages5
JournalAdvances in Radiation Oncology
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Apr 2016


FundersFunder number
LeRoy Schecter Foundation
Parasol Foundation


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