Characteristics of bremsstrahlung in electron beams

T. C. Zhu, I. J. Das, B. E. Bjärngard

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

22 Scopus citations


Clinical electron beams contain an admixture of bremsstrahlung produced in structures in the accelerator head, in field-defining cerrobend or lead cutouts, and in the irradiated patient or water phantom. Accurate knowledge of these components is important for dose calculations and treatment planning. In this study, the bremsstrahlung components are separated for electron beams (energy 6-22 MeV, diameter 0-5 cm) using measurements in water and calculations. The results show that bremsstrahlung from the accelerator head dominates and increases with field size for electron beams generated by accelerators equipped with scattering foils. The bremsstrahlung from the field-defining cerrobend accounts for 10% to 30% of the total bremsstrahlung and decreases with increasing beam radius. The bremsstrahlung is softer than the x-ray beams of corresponding nominal energy since the latter are hardened by the flattening filter. For the 6, 12, and 22 MeV electron beams, the effective attenuation coefficients in water for the bremsstrahlung are 0.058, 0.050, and 0.043 cm-1. The depths of maximum dose at 100 cm SSD are 0.8, 1.7, and 3.0 cm. The position of the virtual source of the bremsstrahlung shifts downstream from the nominal source position by 20, 13, 5.6 cm, respectively. The lateral bremsstrahlung dose distribution is more forward-peaked for higher electron energy. The bremsstrahlung components could be described for any machine by a set of simple measurements and can be modeled by an analytical expression.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1352-1358
Number of pages7
JournalMedical physics
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jan 1 2001


  • Bremsstrahlung
  • Electron beam
  • Monte Carlo
  • Radiotherapy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging

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  • Cite this

    Zhu, T. C., Das, I. J., & Bjärngard, B. E. (2001). Characteristics of bremsstrahlung in electron beams. Medical physics, 28(7), 1352-1358.