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Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys. 2002 Apr 1;52(5):1159-72.

Is uniform target dose possible in IMRT plans in the head and neck?

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  • 1Department of Radiation Oncology, University of Michigan Medical Center, Ann Arbor, MI 48109, USA.



Various published reports involving intensity-modulated radiotherapy (IMRT) plans developed using automated optimization (inverse planning) have demonstrated highly conformal plans. These reported conformal IMRT plans involve significant target dose inhomogeneity, including both overdosage and underdosage within the target volume. In this study, we demonstrate the development of optimized beamlet IMRT plans that satisfy rigorous dose homogeneity requirements for all target volumes (e.g., +/-5%), while also sparing the parotids and other normal structures.


The treatment plans of 15 patients with oropharyngeal cancer who were previously treated with forward-planned multisegmental IMRT were planned again using an automated optimization system developed in-house. The optimization system allows for variable sized beamlets computed using a three-dimensional convolution/superposition dose calculation and flexible cost functions derived from combinations of clinically relevant factors (costlets) that can include dose, dose-volume, and biologic model-based costlets. The current study compared optimized IMRT plans designed to treat the various planning target volumes to doses of 66, 60, and 54 Gy with varying target dose homogeneity while using a flexible optimization cost function to minimize the dose to the parotids, spinal cord, oral cavity, brainstem, submandibular nodes, and other structures.


In all cases, target dose uniformity was achieved through steeply varying dose-based costs. Differences in clinical plan evaluation metrics were evaluated for individual cases (eight different target homogeneity costlets), and for the entire cohort of plans. Highly conformal plans were achieved, with significant sparing of both the contralateral and ipsilateral parotid glands. As the homogeneity of the target dose distributions was allowed to decrease, increased sparing of the parotids (and other normal tissues) may be achieved. However, it was shown that relatively few patients would benefit from the use of increased target inhomogeneity, because the range of improvement in the parotid dose is relatively limited. Hot spots in the target volumes are shown to be unnecessary and do not assist in normal tissue sparing.


Sparing of both parotids in patients receiving bilateral neck radiation can be achieved without compromising strict target dose homogeneity criteria. The geometry of the normal tissue and target anatomy are shown to be the major factor necessary to predict the parotid sparing that will be possible for any particular case.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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