Using X-rays To Treat Inner Ear Infections and Deafness

Dr. Edward Calabrese and G Dhawan have published an article titled Historical use of x-rays: Treatment of inner ear infections and prevention of deafness in Vol 33(5) of Human and Experimental Toxicology, May 2014.

Purpose: This article provides an historical assessment of the role of radiotherapy in the treatment of inner ear infections.

Materials and methods: The research utilized a literature-based evaluation of the use of x-rays during the first half of the 20th century on the treatment of otitis media (OM), mastoiditis, and cervical adenitis and their impact on the occurrence of deafness.

Results: X-Rays were consistently found to be effective as a treatment modality at relatively low doses, in the range of 10–20% of the skin erythema dose, rapidly reducing inflammation, and accelerating the healing process. The mechanistic basis of the clinical successes, while addressed by contemporary researchers, is evaluated in the present article in light of current molecular biology advances, which indicate that clinically effective low doses of ionizing radiation act via the creation of an anti-inflammatory phenotype in highly inflamed tissue.

Conclusions: X-Ray treatment of OM, mastoiditis, and cervical adenitis was widely accepted in the first half of the 20th century by clinicians as an effective treatment when administered within an appropriate dosage range.

The paper summarizes results from a number of medical papers published mostly during the period from 1920-1940, though there are some from as early as 1902 and as late as the mid 1960s.

In a related effort seeking effective treatments for lymphoid tissue-related hearing loss, Samuel J. Crowe at the Johns Hopkins University developed treatments using radium implants that showed impressive results.

Based on extensive clinical experience, they concluded that the most efficient treatment of hearing impairment due to excessive lymphoid tissue is irradiation with radium or x-rays. So striking were the findings of this clinical research that they claimed there was the potential to reduce the number of deaf adults in the next generation by 50%.

The success led to numerous discussions about the best treatment regimes, the most effective doses, and the relationship of patient ages to doses and results. Not surprisingly, critics also asked questions about the side effects of ionizing radiation.
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