Intravascular brachytherapy (radiation treatment), inside arteries or bypass grafts, after angioplasty or stent surgery

Intravascular brachytherapy (radiation treatment) inside arteries after angioplasty, stent insertion, or bypass grafts may prevent narrowing of the arteries or grafts. Narrowed and blocked arteries can be treated by bypassing the blockage using a graft, angioplasty (widening the artery by inserting a balloon), or inserting a stent (thin metal sleeve) to hold the artery open. However, restenosis (return of the narrowing or obstruction) often occurs within a year. Intravascular brachytherapy (IVBT) aims to prevent restenosis by the application of radiation to the affected part of the artery after the angioplasty or stent insertion.

This review included eight studies with a total of 1090 participants. All eight included studies used the femoropopliteal artery. We did not identify any studies that used the iliac arteries. All trials compared angioplasty with or without stenting plus IVBT with angioplasty with or without stenting alone. No trials were found comparing IVBT to newer technologies such as drug eluting stents, balloons, or cryoplasty. Intravascular brachytherapy resulted in increased cumulative patency, reduced restenosis, and fewer occlusions on short-term follow-ups. However, results from the eight included trials were not consistent and long-term outcomes need to be fully assessed. Therefore, more research is needed especially regarding the long-term outcomes and complications of this treatment, and the health economics and cost-effectiveness data.

Authors' conclusions: 

The evidence for using peripheral artery brachytherapy as an adjunct to percutaneous transluminal angioplasty to maintain patency and for the prevention of restenosis in people with peripheral vascular disease is limited, mainly due to the inconsistency of assessment and reporting of clinically relevant outcomes. More data are needed on clinically relevant outcomes such as health related quality of life (HRQOL) or limb salvage and longer-term outcomes, together with comparisons with other techniques such as drug eluting balloons and stents. Adequately powered randomised controlled trials, health economics and cost-effectiveness data are required before the procedure could be recommended for widespread use.

Read the full abstract...

Interventional treatment of arteries that are narrowed and obstructed by atherosclerosis involves either bypassing the blockage using a graft; widening the artery from the inside with a balloon, a procedure known as percutaneous transluminal angioplasty (PTA); or providing a strut to hold the vessel open, known as a stent. All of these treatments are, however, limited by the high numbers that fail within a year. Intravascular brachytherapy is the application of radiation directly to the site of vessel narrowing. It is known to inhibit the processes that lead to restenosis (narrowing) of vessels and grafts after treatment. This is an update of a review first published in 2002.


To assess the efficacy of, and complications associated with, intravascular brachytherapy (IVBT) for maintaining patency after angioplasty or stent insertion in native vessels or bypass grafts of the iliac or infrainguinal arteries.

Search strategy: 

For this update the Cochrane Peripheral Vascular Diseases Group Trials Search Co-ordinator searched their Specialised Register (last searched August 2013) and CENTRAL (2013, Issue 7).

Selection criteria: 

Randomised controlled trials of the use of brachytherapy as an adjunct to the endovascular treatment of people with peripheral arterial disease (PAD) or stenosed bypass grafts of the iliac or infrainguinal arteries versus the procedure without brachytherapy.

Data collection and analysis: 

Two review authors independently assessed trial quality and two other review authors independently extracted the data. Adverse event information was collected from the trials.

Main results: 

Eight trials with a combined total of 1090 participants were included in this review. All included studies used the femoropopliteal artery. We did not identify any studies that used the iliac arteries. All studies compared PTA with or without stenting plus IVBT versus PTA with or without stenting alone. No trials were found comparing IVBT to technologies such as drug eluting stents or balloons, or cryoplasty. Follow-up ranged from six months to five years. The quality of the included trials was moderate with our concerns relating to the difficulty of blinding due to the nature of the procedures and the small sample sizes for some studies. Primary outcomes (patency or restenosis and need for re-intervention) were reported in the majority of the trials, but reporting at various time points and the use of multiple definitions of the outcomes by the included studies meant that not all data were available for pooling. The secondary outcomes were not reported in many of the included studies.

For brachytherapy, cumulative patency was higher at 24 months (odds ratio (OR) 2.36, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.36 to 4.10, n = 222, P = 0.002). A statistically significant difference was found for restenosis at six months (OR 0.27, 95% CI 0.11 to 0.66, n = 562, P = 0.004), 12 months (OR 0.44, 95% CI 0.28 to 0.68, n = 375, P = 0.0002) and 24 months (OR 0.41, 95% CI 0.21 to 0.78, n = 164, P = 0.007) in favour of IVBT. No difference was found after five years as measured in one study. The need for re-interventions was reported in six studies. Target lesion revascularisation was significantly reduced in trial participants treated with IVBT compared with angioplasty alone (OR 0.51, 95% CI 0.27 to 0.97, P = 0.04) at six months after the interventions. No statistically significant difference was found between the procedures on the need for re-intervention at 12 and 24 months after the procedures.

A statistically significant lower number of occlusions was found in the control group at more than three months (OR 11.46, 95% CI 1.44 to 90.96, n = 363, P = 0.02) but no differences were found at less than one month nor at 12 months after the procedures making the clinical significance uncertain. Ankle brachial index was statistically significantly better for IVBT at the 12 month follow-up (mean difference 0.08, 95% CI 0.02 to 0.14, n = 100, P = 0.02) but no statistically significant differences were found at 24 hours and at six months.

Quality of life, complications, limb loss, cardiovascular deaths, death from all causes, pain free walking distance and maximum walking distance on a treadmill were similar for the two arms of the trials with no statistically significant difference found between the treatment groups.