An objective method to evaluate radiation dose distributions varying by three orders of magnitude

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Purpose: Modern radiotherapy practices typically report the absorbed dose (D) within the 5% relative isodose volume (i.e., the therapeutic dose region) to an accuracy of 3%–5%. Gamma-index analysis, the most commonly used method to evaluate dosimetric accuracy, has low sensitivity to discrepancies that occur outside of this region. The objective of this study was to develop an evaluation method with high sensitivity across dose distributions spanning three orders of magnitude. Methods: We generalized the gamma index to include an additional criterion, the absolute absorbed dose difference, specifically for the low-dose region (i.e., D ≤ 5%). We also proposed a method to objectively select the appropriate magnitudes for relative-dose-difference, absolute-dose-difference, and distance-to-agreement criteria. We demonstrated the generalized gamma-index method by first finding the appropriate generalized gamma-index agreement criteria at an interval of specified passing rates. Next, we used the generalized gamma index to evaluate one-, two-, and three-dimensional absorbed dose distributions in a water-box phantom and voxelized patient geometry. Results: Generalized gamma-index passing rates for one-, two-, and three-dimensional dose distributions were 55.4%, 44.5%, and 8.9%, respectively. Traditional gamma-index passing rates were 100%, 97.8%, and 96.4%, respectively. These results reveal that the generalized method has adequate sensitivity in all regions (i.e., therapeutic and low dose). Additionally, the algorithmic determination of triplets of agreement criteria revealed that they are strong functions of the specified passing rate. Conclusions: The major finding of this work is that the proposed method provides an objective evaluation of the agreement of dose distributions spanning three orders of magnitude. In particular, this generalized method correctly characterized dosimetric agreement in the low-dose region, which was not possible by traditional methods. The proposed algorithmic selection of agreement criteria decreased subjectivity and requirements of user judgment and skill. This method could find utility in a variety of applications including dose-algorithm development and translation.

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Medical Physics

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