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Phys Med Biol. 2005 Dec 7;50(23):5629-39. Epub 2005 Nov 16.

On the existence of low-energy photons (<150 keV) in the unflattened x-ray beam from an ordinary radiotherapeutic target in a medical linear accelerator.

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  • 1Department of Nuclear Engineering, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Beer Sheva, Israel.


Low-energy photons (<150 keV) are essential for obtaining high quality x-ray radiographs. These photons are usually produced in the accelerator target, but are effectively absorbed by the flattening filter and, at least partially, by the target itself. Experimental proof is presented for the existence of low-energy photons in the unflattened x-ray beam produced by a 6 MeV electron beam normally incident on the thinner of the two existing ports of the all-Cu radiotherapeutic target of a Clinac 18 (Varian Associates) linear accelerator. A number of one-shot absorption measurements were carried out with 12 foils of Pb absorbers with thicknesses varying from 0.25 to 3 mm in steps of 0.25 mm arranged symmetrically around the central axis on a 7.2 cm radius circumference. A Kodak ECL film-screen-cassette combination was used as a detector in the absorption measurements, in which optical density was measured as a function of the thickness of the Pb absorbers. Two sets of absorption measurements were carried out: the first one with the Clinac 18 6 MV unflattened beam and the second one with the Clinac 600C 6 MV therapeutic counterpart beam. There is a striking difference between the two sets: the optical density versus Pb-absorber thickness curve shows a sharp increase in optical density at small absorber thicknesses in the case of the unflattened 6 MV x-ray beam as compared with a gently sloping dependence in the case of the 6 MV therapeutic beam. A semi-quantitative assessment of the low-energy photon contribution to the whole optical density/contrast is presented. A 0.85 mm thick Pb absorber intercepting the 6 MV unflattened x-ray beam eliminates almost totally the sharp peak in the optical density curve at small Pb-absorber thicknesses. This constitutes additional evidence for the existence of low-energy photons (<150 keV) in the unflattened 6 MV beam from the Cu therapeutic target.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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