Research Article| Volume 22, ISSUE 3, P97-104, July 2006

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An investigation of dose calculation accuracy in intensity-modulated radiotherapy of sites in the head & neck

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      Knowledge of the accuracy of dose calculations in intensity-modulated radiotherapy of the head and neck is essential for clinical confidence in these highly conformal treatments. High dose gradients are frequently placed very close to critical structures, such as the spinal cord, and good coverage of complex shaped nodal target volumes is important for long term-local control.
      A phantom study is presented comparing the performance of standard clinical pencil-beam and collapsed-cone dose algorithms to Monte Carlo calculation and three-dimensional gel dosimetry measurement. Calculations and measurements are individually normalized to the median dose in the primary planning target volume, making this a purely relative study. The phantom simulates tissue, air and bone for a typical neck section and is treated using an inverse-planned 5-field IMRT treatment, similar in character to clinically used class solutions.
      Results indicate that the pencil-beam algorithm fails to correctly model the relative dose distribution surrounding the air cavity, leading to an cverestimate of the target coverage. The collapsed-cone and Monte Carlo results are very similar, indicating that the clinical collapsed-cone algorithm is perfectly sufficient for routine clinical use. The gel measurement shows generally good agreement with the collapsed-cone and Monte Carlo calculated dose, particularly in the spinal cord dose and nodal target coverage, thus giving greater confidence in the use of this class solution.
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