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Phys Med Biol. 2004 Oct 7;49(19):4493-506.

Measurements of output factors with different detector types and Monte Carlo calculations of stopping-power ratios for degraded electron beams.

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  • 1Department of Radiation Physics, Lund University Hospital, Lund, Sweden.


The aim of the present study was to investigate three different detector types (a parallel-plate ionization chamber, a p-type silicon diode and a diamond detector) with regard to output factor measurements in degraded electron beams, such as those encountered in small-electron-field radiotherapy and intraoperative radiation therapy (IORT). The Monte Carlo method was used to calculate mass collision stopping-power ratios between water and the different detector materials for these complex electron beams (nominal energies of 6, 12 and 20 MeV). The diamond detector was shown to exhibit excellent properties for output factor measurements in degraded beams and was therefore used as a reference. The diode detector was found to be well suited for practical measurements of output factors, although the water-to-silicon stopping-power ratio was shown to vary slightly with treatment set-up and irradiation depth (especially for lower electron energies). Application of ionization-chamber-based dosimetry, according to international dosimetry protocols, will introduce uncertainties smaller than 0.3% into the output factor determination for conventional IORT beams if the variation of the water-to-air stopping-power ratio is not taken into account. The IORT system at our department includes a 0.3 cm thin plastic scatterer inside the therapeutic beam, which furthermore increases the energy degradation of the electrons. By ignoring the change in the water-to-air stopping-power ratio due to this scatterer, the output factor could be underestimated by up to 1.3%. This was verified by the measurements. In small-electron-beam dosimetry, the water-to-air stopping-power ratio variation with field size could mostly be ignored. For fields with flat lateral dose profiles (>3 x 3 cm2), output factors determined with the ionization chamber were found to be in close agreement with the results of the diamond detector. For smaller field sizes the lateral extension of the ionization chamber hampers its use. We therefore recommend that the readily available silicon diode detector should be used for output factor measurements in complex electron fields.

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