To quantitatively and systematically assess dosimetric effects induced by spot positioning error as a function of spot spacing (SS) on intensity-modulated proton therapy (IMPT) plan quality and to facilitate evaluation of safety tolerance limits on spot position.
Spot position errors (PE) ranging from 1 to 2 mm were simulated. Simple plans were created on a water phantom, and IMPT plans were calculated on two pediatric patients with a brain tumor of 28 and 3 cc, respectively, using a commercial planning system. For the phantom, a uniform dose was delivered to targets located at different depths from 10 to 20 cm with various field sizes from 22 to 152 cm2. Two nominal spot sizes, 4.0 and 6.6 mm of 1 σ in water at isocenter, were used for treatment planning. The SS ranged from 0.5 σ to 1.5 σ, which is 2–6 mm for the small spot size and 3.3–9.9 mm for the large spot size. Various perturbation scenarios of a single spot error and systematic and random multiple spot errors were studied. To quantify the dosimetric effects, percent dose error (PDE) depth profiles and the value of percent dose error at the maximum dose difference (PDE [ΔDmax]) were used for evaluation.
A pair of hot and cold spots was created per spot shift. PDE[ΔDmax] is found to be a complex function of PE, SS, spot size, depth, and global spot distribution that can be well defined in simple models. For volumetric targets, the PDE [ΔDmax] is not noticeably affected by the change of field size or target volume within the studied ranges. In general, reducing SS decreased the dose error. For the facility studied, given a single spot error with a PE of 1.2 mm and for both spot sizes, a SS of 1σ resulted in a 2% maximum dose error; a SS larger than 1.25 σ substantially increased the dose error and its sensitivity to PE. A similar trend was observed in multiple spot errors (both systematic and random errors). Systematic PE can lead to noticeable hot spots along the field edges, which may be near critical structures. However, random PE showed minimal dose error.
Dose error dependence for PE was quantitatively and systematically characterized and an analytic tool was built to simulate systematic and random errors for patient-specific IMPT. This information facilitates the determination of facility specific spot position error thresholds.