SU-E-T-136: Assessment of Seasonal Linear Accelerator Output Variations and Associated Impacts




Application of process control theory in quality assurance programs promises to allow earlier identification of problems and potentially better quality in delivery than traditional paradigms based primarily on tolerances and action levels. The purpose of this project was to characterize underlying seasonal variations in linear accelerator output that can be used to improve performance or trigger preemptive maintenance.


Review of runtime plots of daily (6 MV) output data acquired using in house ion chamber based devices over three years and for fifteen linear accelerators of varying make and model were evaluated. Shifts in output due to known interventions with the machines were subtracted from the data to model an uncorrected scenario for each linear accelerator. Observable linear trends were also removed from the data prior to evaluation of periodic variations.


Runtime plots of output revealed sinusoidal, seasonal variations that were consistent across all units, irrespective of manufacturer, model or age of machine. The average amplitude of the variation was on the order of 1%. Peak and minimum variations were found to correspond to early April and September, respectively. Approximately 48% of output adjustments made over the period examined were potentially avoidable if baseline levels had corresponded to the mean output, rather than to points near a peak or valley. Linear trends were observed for three of the fifteen units, with annual increases in output ranging from 2–3%.


Characterization of cyclical seasonal trends allows for better separation of potentially innate accelerator behaviour from other behaviours (e.g. linear trends) that may be better described as true out of control states (i.e. non-stochastic deviations from otherwise expected behavior) and could indicate service requirements. Results also pointed to an optimal setpoint for accelerators such that output of machines is maintained within set tolerances and interventions are required less frequently.