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Med Phys. 2009 Mar;36(3):698-707.

Determination of electron energy, spectral width, and beam divergence at the exit window for clinical megavoltage x-ray beams.

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  • 1Department of Radiation Oncology, University of California San Francisco, 1600 Divisadero Street, San Francisco, California 94143, USA.


Monte Carlo simulations of x-ray beams typically take parameters of the electron beam in the accelerating waveguide to be free parameters. In this paper, a methodology is proposed and implemented to determine the energy, spectral width, and beam divergence of the electron source. All treatment head components were removed from the beam path, leaving only the exit window. With the x-ray target and flattener out of the beam, uncertainties in physical characteristics and relative position of the target and flattening filter, and in spot size, did not contribute to uncertainty in the energy. Beam current was lowered to reduce recombination effects. The measured dose distributions were compared with Monte Carlo simulation of the electron beam through the treatment head to extract the electron source characteristics. For the nominal 6 and 18 MV x-ray beams, the energies were 6.51 +/- 0.15 and 13.9 +/- 0.2 MeV, respectively, with the uncertainties resulting from uncertainties in the detector position in the measurement and in the stopping power in the simulations. Gaussian spectral distributions were used, with full widths at half maximum ranging from 20 +/- 4% at 6 MV to 13 +/- 4% at 18 MV required to match the fall-off portion of the percent-depth ionization curve. Profiles at the depth of maximum dose from simulations that used the manufacturer-specified exit window geometry and no beam divergence were 2-3 cm narrower than measured profiles. Two simulation configurations yielding the measured profile width were the manufacturer-specified exit window thickness with electron source divergences of 3.3 degrees at 6 MV and 1.8 degrees at 18 MV and an exit window 40% thicker than the manufacturer's specification with no beam divergence. With the x-ray target in place (and no flattener), comparison of measured to simulated profiles sets upper limits on the electron source divergences of 0.2 degrees at 6 MV and 0.1 degrees at 18 MV. A method of determining source characteristics without mechanical modification of the treatment head, and therefore feasible in clinics, is presented. The energies and spectral widths determined using this method agree with those determined with only the exit window in the beam path.

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