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Phys Med Biol. 2008 Apr 7;53(7):1865-76. doi: 10.1088/0031-9155/53/7/004. Epub 2008 Mar 10.

Characterizing the response of miniature scintillation detectors when irradiated with proton beams.

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Department of Radiation Physics, Unit 94, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, 1515 Holcombe Blvd., Houston, TX 77030, USA.


Designing a plastic scintillation detector for proton radiation therapy requires careful consideration. Most of the plastic scintillators should not perturb a proton beam if they are sufficiently small but may exhibit some energy dependence due to the quenching effect. In this work, we studied the factors that would affect the performance of such scintillation detectors. We performed Monte Carlo simulations of proton beams with energies between 50 and 250 MeV to study signal amplitude, water equivalence, spatial resolution and quenching of light output. Implementation of the quenching effect in the Monte Carlo simulations was then compared with prior experimental data for validation. The signal amplitude of a plastic scintillating fiber detector was on the order of 300 photons per MeV of energy deposited in the detector, corresponding to a power of about 30 pW at a proton dose rate of 100 cGy min(-1). The signal amplitude could be increased by up to a factor of 2 with reflective coating. We also found that Cerenkov light was not a significant source of noise. Dose deposited in the plastic scintillator was within 2% of the dose deposited in a similar volume of water throughout the whole depth-dose curve for protons with energies higher than 50 MeV. A scintillation detector with a radius of 0.5 mm offers a sufficient spatial resolution for use with a proton beam of 100 MeV or more. The main disadvantage of plastic scintillators when irradiated by protons was the quenching effect, which reduced the amount of scintillation and resulted in dose underestimation by close to 30% at the Bragg peak for beams of 150 MeV or more. However, the level of quenching was nearly constant throughout the proximal half of the depth-dose curve for all proton energies considered. We therefore conclude that it is possible to construct an effective detector to overcome the problems traditionally encountered in proton dosimetry. Scintillation detectors could be used for surface or shallow measurements with a single calibration for specific beam energy. For deeper measurements, Monte Carlo simulations can be used to generate depth-dependent correction factors.

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