Beta Radiation in Ophthalmology*
For the past five years, beta radiation from radium has been used at Cleveland Clinic in treatment of corneal scars and lid lesions. Beta rays had previously been advocated by Moore in treatment of tuberculosis of the eye.1 Since tissue reaction in ocular tuberculosis is a low-grade, inflammatory process, we analyzed the use of beta radiation as a possible treatment of corneal scars and lid lesions in which a low-grade inflammation is also present.
Most patients with corneal scars are dismissed with the final statement that nothing further can be done. For patients whose vision is limited to light perception or moving shadows, an increase to recognition of large objects or those as high as 1/60 is extremely welcome. Slight improvement frequently marks the difference between complete dependency and self-sufficiency.
At present only two types of radiation, x-rays and gamma rays of radium, are used to any extent upon the eye. Both must be carefully handled to protect the lens and retina. They are successfully used in treatment of ocular conditions requiring deep penetration: carcinoma, sarcoma, and deep orbital pathologic processes.
Beta rays which we employ require an amount of radon in this form of therapy which is both considerable and expensive. Furthermore, such amounts of radon are not always easily obtainable.
Although beta rays as used in our treatments are of high intensity they are easily absorbed and penetrate only superficial layers of tissue; therefore it is safe to use them for lesions of the cornea and adjacent areas.