Date of Graduation


Document Type

Thesis (MS)

Program Affiliation

Medical Physics

Degree Name

Masters of Science (MS)

Advisor/Committee Chair

David Followill, PhD

Committee Member

Geoffrey Ibbott, PhD

Committee Member

Stephen Kry, PhD

Committee Member

Lei Dong, PhD

Committee Member

R. Allen White, PhD


Intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) is a technique that delivers a highly conformal dose distribution to a target volume while attempting to maximally spare the surrounding normal tissues. IMRT is a common treatment modality used for treating head and neck (H&N) cancers, and the presence of many critical structures in this region requires accurate treatment delivery. The Radiological Physics Center (RPC) acts as both a remote and on-site quality assurance agency that credentials institutions participating in clinical trials. To date, about 30% of all IMRT participants have failed the RPC’s remote audit using the IMRT H&N phantom. The purpose of this project is to evaluate possible causes of H&N IMRT delivery errors observed by the RPC, specifically IMRT treatment plan complexity and the use of improper dosimetry data from machines that were thought to be matched but in reality were not. Eight H&N IMRT plans with a range of complexity defined by total MU (1460-3466), number of segments (54-225), and modulation complexity scores (MCS) (0.181-0.609) were created in Pinnacle v.8m. These plans were delivered to the RPC’s H&N phantom on a single Varian Clinac. One of the IMRT plans (1851 MU, 88 segments, and MCS=0.469) was equivalent to the median H&N plan from 130 previous RPC H&N phantom irradiations. This average IMRT plan was also delivered on four matched Varian Clinac machines and the dose distribution calculated using a different 6MV beam model. Radiochromic film and TLD within the phantom were used to analyze the dose profiles and absolute doses, respectively. The measured and calculated were compared to evaluate the dosimetric accuracy. All deliveries met the RPC acceptance criteria of ±7% absolute dose difference and 4 mm distance-to-agreement (DTA). Additionally, gamma index analysis was performed for all deliveries using a ±7%/4mm and ±5%/3mm criteria. Increasing the treatment plan complexity by varying the MU, number of segments, or varying the MCS resulted in no clear trend toward an increase in dosimetric error determined by the absolute dose difference, DTA, or gamma index. Varying the delivery machines as well as the beam model (use of a Clinac 6EX 6MV beam model vs. Clinac 21EX 6MV model), also did not show any clear trend towards an increased dosimetric error using the same criteria indicated above.


Intensity modulated radiation therapy, complexity, mismatched beams, RPC, head and neck phantom