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Med Phys. 2012 Nov;39(11):7160-70. doi: 10.1118/1.4762566.

Penalization of aperture complexity in inversely planned volumetric modulated arc therapy.

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Department of Radiation Oncology, University of Michigan Health System, Ann Arbor, MI 48109, USA.



Apertures obtained during volumetric modulated arc therapy (VMAT) planning can be small and irregular, resulting in dosimetric inaccuracies during delivery. Our purpose is to develop and integrate an aperture-regularization objective function into the optimization process for VMAT, and to quantify the impact of using this objective function on dose delivery accuracy and optimized dose distributions.


An aperture-based metric ("edge penalty") was developed that penalizes complex aperture shapes based on the ratio of MLC side edge length and aperture area. To assess the utility of the metric, VMAT plans were created for example paraspinal, brain, and liver SBRT cases with and without incorporating the edge penalty in the cost function. To investigate the dose calculation accuracy, Gafchromic EBT2 film was used to measure the 15 highest weighted apertures individually and as a composite from each of two paraspinal plans: one with and one without the edge penalty applied. Films were analyzed using a triple-channel nonuniformity correction and measurements were compared directly to calculations.


Apertures generated with the edge penalty were larger, more regularly shaped and required up to 30% fewer monitor units than those created without the edge penalty. Dose volume histogram analysis showed that the changes in doses to targets, organs at risk, and normal tissues were negligible. Edge penalty apertures that were measured with film for the paraspinal plan showed a notable decrease in the number of pixels disagreeing with calculation by more than 10%. For a 5% dose passing criterion, the number of pixels passing in the composite dose distributions for the non-edge penalty and edge penalty plans were 52% and 96%, respectively. Employing gamma with 3% dose/1 mm distance criteria resulted in a 79.5% (without penalty)/95.4% (with penalty) pass rate for the two plans. Gradient compensation of 3%/1 mm resulted in 83.3%/96.2% pass rates.


The use of the edge penalty during optimization has the potential to markedly improve dose delivery accuracy for VMAT plans while still maintaining high quality optimized dose distributions. The penalty regularizes aperture shape and improves delivery efficiency.

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