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Med Phys. 2011 Feb;38(2):845-56.

Characterization of image quality and image-guidance performance of a preclinical microirradiator.

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Radiation Medicine Program, Princess Margaret Hospital, 610 University Avenue, Toronto, Ontario M5G 2M9, Canada.



To assess image quality and image-guidance capabilities of a cone-beam CT based small-animal image-guided irradiation unit (micro-IGRT).


A micro-IGRT system has been developed in collaboration with the authors' laboratory as a means to study the radiobiological effects of conformal radiation dose distributions in small animals. The system, the X-Rad 225Cx, consists of a 225 kVp x-ray tube and a flat-panel amorphous silicon detector mounted on a rotational C-arm gantry and is capable of both fluoroscopic x-ray and cone-beam CT imaging, as well as image-guided placement of the radiation beams. Image quality (voxel noise, modulation transfer, CT number accuracy, and geometric accuracy characteristics) was assessed using water cylinder and micro-CT test phantoms. Image guidance was tested by analyzing the dose delivered to radiochromic films fixed to BB's through the end-to-end process of imaging, targeting the center of the BB, and irradiation of the film/BB in order to compare the offset between the center of the field and the center of the BB. Image quality and geometric studies were repeated over a 5-7 month period to assess stability.


CT numbers reported were found to be linear (R2 0.998) and the noise for images of homogeneous water phantom was 30 HU at imaging doses of approximately 1 cGy (to water). The presampled MTF at 50% and 10% reached 0.64 and 1.35 mm(-1), respectively. Targeting accuracy by means of film irradiations was shown to have a mean displacement error of [deltax, deltay, deltaz] = [-0.12, -0.05, -0.02] mm, with standard deviations of [0.02, 0.20, 0.17] mm. The system has proven to be stable over time, with both the image quality and image-guidance performance being reproducible for the duration of the studies.


The micro-IGRT unit provides soft-tissue imaging of small-animal anatomy at acceptable imaging doses (< or =1 cGy). The geometric accuracy and targeting systems permit dose placement with submillimeter accuracy and precision. The system has proven itself to be stable over 2 yr of routine laboratory use (>1800 irradiations) and provides a platform for the exploration of targeted radiation effects in small-animal models.

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