PURPOSE: Interfraction and intrafraction variation in anatomic structures is a significant challenge in contemporary radiotherapy. The objective of this work is to develop a novel tool for deformable structure dosimetry, using a tissue-equivalent deformable gel dosimeter that can reproducibly simulate targets subject to deformation. This will enable direct measurement of integrated doses delivered in different deformation states, and the verification of dose deforming algorithms. METHODS: A modified version of the nPAG polymer gel has been used as a deformable 3D dosimeter and phantom to investigate doses delivered to deforming tissue-equivalent geometry. The deformable gel (DEFGEL) dosimeter/phantom is comprised of polymer gel in a latex membrane, moulded (in this case) into a cylindrical geometry, and deformed with an acrylic compressor. Fifteen aluminium fiducial markers (FM) were implanted into DEFGEL phantoms and the reproducibility of deformation was determined via multiple computed tomography (CT) scans in deformed and nondeformed states before and after multiple (up to 150) deformations. Dose was delivered to the DEFGEL phantom in three arrangements: (i) without deformation, (ii) with deformation, and (iii) cumulative exposures with and without deformation, i.e., dose integration. Irradiations included both square field and a stereotactic multiple dynamic arc treatment adapted from a patient plan. Doses delivered to the DEFGEL phantom were read out using cone beam optical CT. RESULTS: Reproducibility was verified by observation of interscan shifts of FM locations (as determined via CT), measured from an absolute reference point and in terms of inter-FM distance. The majority (76%) of points exhibited zero shift, with others shifting by one pixel size consistent with setup error as confirmed with a control sample. Comparison of dose profiles and 2D isodose distributions from the three arrangements illustrated complex spatial redistribution of dose in all three dimensions occurring as a result of the change in shape of the target between irradiations, even for a relatively simple deformation. Discrepancies of up to 30% of the maximum dose were evident from dose difference maps for three orthogonal planes taken through the isocenter of a stereotactic field. CONCLUSIONS: This paper describes the first use of a tissue-equivalent, 3D dose-integrating deformable phantom that yields integrated or redistributed dosimetric information. The proposed methodology readily yields three-dimensional (3D) dosimetric data from radiation delivery to the DEFGEL phantom in deformed and undeformed states. The impacts of deformation on dose distributions were readily seen in the isodose contours and line profiles from the three arrangements. It is demonstrated that the system is potentially capable of reproducibly emulating the physical deformation of an organ, and therefore can be used to evaluate absorbed doses to deformable targets and organs at risk in three dimensions and to validate deformation algorithms applied to dose distributions.
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