MO-G-BRE-09: Validating FMEA Against Incident Learning Data: A Study in Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy




Though FMEA (Failure Mode and Effects Analysis) is becoming more widely adopted for risk assessment in radiation therapy, to our knowledge it has never been validated against actual incident learning data. The objective of this study was to perform an FMEA analysis of an SBRT (Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy) treatment planning process and validate this against data recorded within an incident learning system.


FMEA on the SBRT treatment planning process was carried out by a multidisciplinary group including radiation oncologists, medical physicists, and dosimetrists. Potential failure modes were identified through a systematic review of the workflow process. Failure modes were rated for severity, occurrence, and detectability on a scale of 1 to 10 and RPN (Risk Priority Number) was computed. Failure modes were then compared with historical reports identified as relevant to SBRT planning within a departmental incident learning system that had been active for two years. Differences were identified.


FMEA identified 63 failure modes. RPN values for the top 25% of failure modes ranged from 60 to 336. Analysis of the incident learning database identified 33 reported near-miss events related to SBRT planning. FMEA failed to anticipate 13 of these events, among which 3 were registered with severity ratings of severe or critical in the incident learning system. Combining both methods yielded a total of 76 failure modes, and when scored for RPN the 13 events missed by FMEA ranked within the middle half of all failure modes.


FMEA, though valuable, is subject to certain limitations, among them the limited ability to anticipate all potential errors for a given process. This FMEA exercise failed to identify a significant number of possible errors (17%). Integration of FMEA with retrospective incident data may be able to render an improved overview of risks within a process.