Characteristics of flattening filter free beams at low monitor unit settings




Newer linear accelerators (linacs) have been equipped to deliver flattening filter free (FFF) beams. When FFF beams are used for step-and-shoot intensity-modulated radiotherapy (IMRT), the stability of delivery of small numbers of monitor units (MU) is important. The authors developed automatic measurement techniques to evaluate the stability of the dose profile, dose linearity, and consistency. Here, the authors report the performance of the Artiste™ accelerator (Siemens, Erlangen, Germany) in delivering low-MU FFF beams.


A 6 MV flattened beam (6X) with 300 MU/min dose rate and FFF beams of 7 (7XU) and 11 MV (11XU), each with a 500 MU/min dose rate, were measured at 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 10, and 20 MU settings. For the 2000 MU/min dose rate, the 7 (7XUH) and 11 MV (11XUH) beams were set at 10, 15, 20, 25, and 30 MU because of the limits of the minimum MU settings. Beams with 20 × 20 and 10 × 10 cm2 field sizes were alternately measured ten times in intensity modulated (IM) mode, with which Siemens linacs regulate beam delivery for step-and-shoot IMRT. The in- and crossplane beam profiles were measured using a Profiler™ Model 1170 (Sun Nuclear Corporation, Melbourne, FL) in multiframe mode. The frames of 20 × 20 cm2 beams were identified at the off-axis profile. The 6X beam profile was normalized at the central axis. The 7 and 11 MV FFF beam profiles were rescaled to set the dose at the central axis at 145% and 170%, respectively. Point doses were also measured using a Farmer-type ionization chamber and water-equivalent solid phantom to evaluate the linearity and consistency of low-MU beam delivery. The values displayed on the electrometer were recognized with a USB-type camera and read with open-source optical character recognition software.


The symmetry measurements of the 6X, 7XU, and 11XU beam profiles were better than 2% for beams ≥2 MU and improved with increasing MU. The variations in flatness of FFF beams ≥2 MU were ±5%. The standard deviation of the symmetry and flatness also decreased with increasing MU. The linearity of the 6X beam was ±1% and ±2% for the beams of ≥5 and ≥3 MU, respectively. The 7XU and 11XU beams of ≥2 MU showed linearity with ±2% except the 7XU beam of 8 MU (+2.9%). The profiles of the FFF beams with 2000 and 500 MU/min dose rate were similar.


The characteristics of low-MU beams delivered in IM mode were evaluated using an automatic measurement system developed in this study. The authors demonstrated that the profiles of FFF beams of the Artiste™ linac were highly stable, even at low MU. The linearity of dose output was also stable for beams ≥2 MU.