Underestimation of Low-Dose Radiation in Treatment Planning of Intensity-Modulated Radiotherapy

International Journal of Radiation Oncology, Biology, Physics. 2008 May 29. [Epub ahead of print] [Link]

Jang SY, Liu HH, Mohan R.

Department of Radiation Physics, The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX.


Purpose: To investigate potential dose calculation errors in the low-dose regions and identify causes of such errors for intensity-modulated radiotherapy (IMRT).

Methods and Materials: The IMRT treatment plans of 23 patients with lung cancer and mesothelioma were reviewed. Of these patients, 15 had severe pulmonary complications after radiotherapy. Two commercial treatment-planning systems (TPSs) and a Monte Carlo system were used to calculate and compare dose distributions and dose-volume parameters of the target volumes and critical structures. The effect of tissue heterogeneity, multileaf collimator (MLC) modeling, beam modeling, and other factors that could contribute to the differences in IMRT dose calculations were analyzed.

Results: In the commercial TPS-generated IMRT plans, dose calculation errors primarily occurred in the low-dose regions of IMRT plans (<50% of the radiation dose prescribed for the tumor). Although errors in the dose-volume histograms of the normal lung were small (<5%) above 10 Gy, underestimation of dose <10 Gy was found to be up to 25% in patients with mesothelioma or large target volumes. These errors were found to be caused by inadequate modeling of MLC transmission and leaf scatter in commercial TPSs. The degree of low-dose errors depends on the target volumes and the degree of intensity modulation.

Conclusions: Secondary radiation from MLCs contributes a significant portion of low dose in IMRT plans. Dose underestimation could occur in conventional IMRT dose calculations if such low-dose radiation is not properly accounted for.