Objective: To evaluate the incidence, time course, and factors associated with cataract formation in bone marrow transplant recipients.
Design: Prospective cohort study.
Setting: University Hospitals, Basel, Switzerland.
Patients: 197 patients treated with allogeneic or autologous bone marrow grafts at least 180 days before the start of the study.
Intervention: Three regimens for bone marrow transplant were used: 74 patients received single-dose, total-body irradiation (TBI), 90 patients received fractionated TBI, and 33 received chemotherapy alone.
Results: Three and one half years after single-dose TBI, 51 of the 74 patients (69%) were alive and cataracts had developed in all of these 51 patients. Cataracts developed in 18 of the 90 (20%) patients treated with fractionated TBI, with an 83% (95% CI, 63% to 100%) risk for lens opacification at 6 years\f. Cataracts developed in only 1 of the 33 (3%) patients treated with chemotherapy alone. Incidence of cataracts is higher and lens opacification occurs earlier after single-dose TBI than after fractionated TBI (P < 0.01). With Cox regression analysis, the use of irradiation (relative risk, 21.0), the mode of irradiation (relative risk, 7.4), and the use of steroid treatment (relative risk, 2.9) for more than 3 months after bone marrow transplantation increased the risk for cataract formation. In contrast, age, sex, and chronic graft-versus-host disease did not influence the rate of cataract development. The probability of requiring cataract surgery after 6 years was 85% (CI, 75% to 95%) for the patients treated with single-dose TBI and 20% (CI, 0% to 49%) for those prepared with fractionated irradiation.
Conclusions: Patients treated with TBI, regardless of fractionation, are likely to have cataracts within 10 years, and some will need surgical repair. Long-term steroid treatment accelerates cataract formation. Preventive measures, such as lens shielding during TBI, should be considered.