Radiation imaging physics
Potential underestimation of the internal target volume (ITV) from free-breathing CBCT
Localization prior to delivery of SBRT to free-breathing patients is performed by aligning the planning internal target volume (ITV) from 4DCT with an on-board free-breathing cone-beam CT (FB-CBCT) image. The FB-CBCT image is assumed to also generate an ITV that captures the full range of motion, due to the acquisition spanning multiple respiratory cycles. However, the ITV could potentially be underestimated when the ratio of time spent in inspiration versus time spent in expiration (I/E ratio) deviates from unity. Therefore, the aim of this study was to investigate the effect of variable I/E ratios on the FB ITV generated from a FB-CBCT scan.
This study employed both phantom and patient imaging data. For the phantom study, five periodic respiratory cycles were simulated with differentI/E ratios. Six patient respiratory cycles with variable I/E ratios were also selected. All profiles were then programmed into a motion phantom for imaging and modified to exhibit three peak-to-peak motion amplitudes (0.5, 1.0, and 2.0 cm). Each profile was imaged using two spherical targets with 1.0 and 3.0 cm diameters. 2D projections were acquired with full gantry rotation of a kiloVoltage (kV) imager mounted onto the gantry of a modern linear accelerator. CBCT images were reconstructed from 2D projections using a standard filtered back-projection reconstruction algorithm. Quantitative analyses for the phantom study included computing the change in contrast along the direction of target motion as well as determining the area (which is proportional to the target volume) inside of the contour extracted using a Canny edge detector. For the patient study, projection data that were previously acquired under an investigational 4D CBCT slow-gantry imaging protocol were used to generate both FB-CBCT and 4D CBCT images. Volumes were then manually contoured from both datasets (using the same window and level) for quantitative comparison.
The phantom study indicated a reduction in contrast at the inferior edge of the ITV (corresponding to inspiration) as the ratio decreased, for both simulated and patient respiratory cycles. For the simulated phantom respiratory cycles, the contrast reduction of the smallestI/E ratio was 27.6% for the largest target with the smallest amplitude and 89.7% for the smallest target with the largest amplitude. For patient respiratory cycles, these numbers were 22.3% and 94.0%, respectively. The extracted area from inside of the target contours showed a decreasing trend as the I/E ratio decreased. In the patient study, the FB-CBCT ITVs of both lung tumors studied were underestimated when compared with their corresponding 4D CBCT ITV. The underestimations found were 40.1% for the smaller tumor and 24.2% for the larger tumor.
The ITV may be underestimated in a FB-CBCT image when a patient's respiratory pattern is characterized by a disparate length of time spent in inspiration versus expiration. Missing the full target motion information during on-board verification imaging may result in localization errors.