A study of IMRT planning parameters on planning efficiency, delivery efficiency, and plan quality




: To improve planning and delivery efficiency of head and neck IMRT without compromising planning quality through the evaluation of inverse planning parameters.


: Eleven head and neck patients with pre-existing IMRT treatment plans were selected for this retrospective study. The Pinnacle treatment planning system (TPS) was used to compute new treatment plans for each patient by varying the individual or the combined parameters of dose/fluence grid resolution, minimum MU per segment, and minimum segment area. Forty-five plans per patient were generated with the following variations: 4 dose/fluence grid resolution plans, 12 minimum segment area plans, 9 minimum MU plans, and 20 combined minimum segment area/minimum MU plans. Each plan was evaluated and compared to others based on dose volume histograms (DVHs) (i.e., plan quality), planning time, and delivery time. To evaluate delivery efficiency, a model was developed that estimated the delivery time of a treatment plan, and validated through measurements on an Elekta Synergy linear accelerator.


: The uncertainty (i.e., variation) of the dose-volume index due to dose calculation grid variation was as high as 8.2% (5.5 Gy in absolute dose) for planning target volumes (PTVs) and 13.3% (2.1 Gy in absolute dose) for planning at risk volumes (PRVs). Comparison results of dose distributions indicated that smaller volumes were more susceptible to uncertainties. The grid resolution of a 4 mm dose grid with a 2 mm fluence grid was recommended, since it can reduce the final dose calculation time by 63% compared to the accepted standard (2 mm dose grid with a 2 mm fluence grid resolution) while maintaining a similar level of dose-volume index variation. Threshold values that maintained adequate plan quality (DVH results of the PTVs and PRVs remained satisfied for their dose objectives) were 5 cm2 for minimum segment area and 5 MU for minimum MU. As the minimum MU parameter was increased, the number of segments and delivery time were decreased. Increasing the minimum segment area parameter decreased the plan MU, but had less of an effect on the number of segments and delivery time. Our delivery time model predicted delivery time to within 1.8%.


: Increasing the dose grid while maintaining a small fluence grid allows for improved planning efficiency without compromising plan quality. Delivery efficiency can be improved by increasing the minimum MU, but not the minimum segment area. However, increasing the respective minimum MU and/or the minimum segment area to any value greater than 5 MU and 5 cm2 is not recommended because it degrades plan quality.