Radiotherapy is a simple, safe and painless treatment, which can soften tissue affected by early-stage Dupuytren’s disease in order to slow, stop or reverse the progression of the condition.
Radiotherapy was approved for use in the UK for Dupuytren’s contracture in 2010 by NICE (National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence), which is the organisation that assesses new treatments for the NHS. This document can be found here.
When should I get treatment?
Radiotherapy is very effective at keeping straight fingers straight. In other words, it works best in the early stages of the disease where there is minimal, or no contracture.
If you have a contracture (fixed bending) of the fingers of more than 10 degrees then radiotherapy is less likely to be effective, and you may need to see a surgeon to consider release of the contracture.
It is difficult to predict whose disease will get worse and whose will remain dormant. In some people, the disease may progress to form a contracture relatively quickly, but in some people the disease may remain dormant for many years. For this reason, radiotherapy treatment is generally offered if the disease has been getting noticeably worse over 6 – 12 months.
If you would like information on what to expect from radiotherapy treatment the follow this link.
Radiotherapy will stop or reverse the disease in around two-thirds of patients whose contracture is in its early stages.
A study of radiotherapy treatment for Dupuytren’s disease showed that in 80% of participants the disease had stopped or improved eight years after treatment, and only 8% went on to need surgery.
In contrast, the disease worsened after five years in the 62% of patients that did not receive radiotherapy treatment, 30% then needed surgery.
The success rate of radiotherapy is lower in the later stages of the disease when the fingers are more contracted. However, in some cases, the contracture can be released with a needle aponeurotomy and then treated with radiotherapy in order to stop the contracture recurring and to prevent disease in the rest of the hand forming a contracture.