Effect of CT electron density identification on Monte Carlo simulations of radiotherapeutic treatments

Kairn, T. & Fielding, A.L. (2008) Effect of CT electron density identification on Monte Carlo simulations of radiotherapeutic treatments. Australasian Physical and Engineering Sciences in Medicine, 31(4), pp. 381-382.

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Introduction: The accurate identification of tissue electron densities is of great importance for Monte Carlo (MC) dose calculations. When converting patient CT data into a voxelised format suitable for MC simulations, however, it is common to simplify the assignment of electron densities so that the complex tissues existing in the human body are categorized into a few basic types. This study examines the effects that the assignment of tissue types and the calculation of densities can have on the results of MC simulations, for the particular case of a Siemen’s Sensation 4 CT scanner located in a radiotherapy centre where QA measurements are routinely made using 11 tissue types (plus air).

Methods: DOSXYZnrc phantoms are generated from CT data, using the CTCREATE user code, with the relationship between Hounsfield units (HU) and density determined via linear interpolation between a series of specified points on the ‘CT-density ramp’ (see Figure 1(a)). Tissue types are assigned according to HU ranges. Each voxel in the DOSXYZnrc phantom therefore has an electron density (electrons/cm3) defined by the product of the mass density (from the HU conversion) and the intrinsic electron density (electrons /gram) (from the material assignment), in that voxel. In this study, we consider the problems of density conversion and material identification separately: the CT-density ramp is simplified by decreasing the number of points which define it from 12 down to 8, 3 and 2; and the material-type-assignment is varied by defining the materials which comprise our test phantom (a Supertech head) as two tissues and bone, two plastics and bone, water only and (as an extreme case) lead only. The effect of these parameters on radiological thickness maps derived from simulated portal images is investigated.

Results & Discussion: Increasing the degree of simplification of the CT-density ramp results in an increasing effect on the resulting radiological thickness calculated for the Supertech head phantom. For instance, defining the CT-density ramp using 8 points, instead of 12, results in a maximum radiological thickness change of 0.2 cm, whereas defining the CT-density ramp using only 2 points results in a maximum radiological thickness change of 11.2 cm. Changing the definition of the materials comprising the phantom between water and plastic and tissue results in millimetre-scale changes to the resulting radiological thickness. When the entire phantom is defined as lead, this alteration changes the calculated radiological thickness by a maximum of 9.7 cm. Evidently, the simplification of the CT-density ramp has a greater effect on the resulting radiological thickness map than does the alteration of the assignment of tissue types.

Conclusions: It is possible to alter the definitions of the tissue types comprising the phantom (or patient) without substantially altering the results of simulated portal images. However, these images are very sensitive to the accurate identification of the HU-density relationship. When converting data from a patient’s CT into a MC simulation phantom, therefore, all possible care should be taken to accurately reproduce the conversion between HU and mass density, for the specific CT scanner used.

Acknowledgements: This work is funded by the NHMRC, through a project grant, and supported by the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) and the Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital (RBWH), Brisbane, Australia. The authors are grateful to the staff of the RBWH, especially Darren Cassidy, for assistance in obtaining the phantom CT data used in this study. The authors also wish to thank Cathy Hargrave, of QUT, for assistance in formatting the CT data, using the Pinnacle TPS. Computational resources and services used in this work were provided by the HPC and Research Support Group, QUT, Brisbane, Australia.

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ID Code: 61190
Item Type: Journal Article
Refereed: Yes
ISSN: 0158-9938
Divisions: Current > Schools > School of Chemistry, Physics & Mechanical Engineering
Current > Institutes > Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation
Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Science & Engineering Faculty
Deposited On: 08 Jul 2013 01:54
Last Modified: 08 Jul 2013 02:55

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