Lateral loss and dose discrepancies of multileaf collimator segments in intensity modulated radiation therapy

Chee W. Cheng, Indra J. Das, M. Saiful Huq

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

11 Scopus citations


In the step-and-shoot technique delivery of intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT), each static field consists of a number of beamlets, some of which may be very small. In this study, we measured the dose characteristics for a range of field sizes: 2×2 to 12×10 cm2 for 6 and 15 MV x rays. For a given field length, a number of treatment fields are set up by sequentially increasing the field width using a multi leaf collimator. A set of fields is delivered with the accelerator operated in the IMRT mode. Using an ion chamber, the output factors at 1 cm and 3 cm laterally from a field edge are measured at different depths in a solid water phantom. Our results show that with insufficient lateral distance in at least one direction, the absorbed dose never reaches the equilibrium values, and can be significantly lower for very small field sizes. For example, the output factor of the 2×2 cm 2 field relative to 10×10 cm2 at dmax is 0.832 and 0.790 for 6 MV and 15 MV x rays, respectively. Multiple output factor curves are obtained for different field lengths and different buildup conditions. Thus under nonequilibrium conditions, output factors are critically dependent on the field size and the conventional method of determining the equivalent square does not apply. Comparison of output factors acquired in the commissioning of the accelerator with those measured in the present study under conditions of nonequilibrium shows large discrepancies between the two sets of measurements. Thus monitor units generated by a treatment planning system using beam data commissioned with symmetric fields may be underestimated by >5%, depending on the size and shape of the segments. To facilitate manual MU calculation as an independent check in step-and-shoot IMRT, the concept of effective equivalent square (EES) is introduced. Using EES, output factors can be calculated using existing beam data for fields with asymmetric collimator settings and under conditions of lateral disequilibrium.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2959-2968
Number of pages10
JournalMedical physics
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2003


  • IMRT
  • Lateral disequilibrium
  • MLC
  • Output factors

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging

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