Detector dose response in megavoltage small photon beams. I. Theoretical concepts

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Abstract

Purpose:

To explain the reasons for significant quality correction factors in megavoltage small photon fields and clarify the underlying concepts relevant to dosimetry under such conditions.

Methods:

The validity of cavity theory and the requirement of charged particle equilibrium (CPE) are addressed from a theoretical point of view in the context of nonstandard beams. Perturbation effects are described into four main subeffects, explaining their nature and pointing out their relative importance in small photon fields.

Results:

It is demonstrated that the failure to meet classical cavity theory requirements, such as CPE, is not the reason for significant quality correction factors. On the contrary, it is shown that the lack of CPE alone cannot explain these corrections and that what matters most, apart from volume averaging effects, is the relationship between the lack of CPE in the small field itself and the density of the detector cavity. The density perturbation effect is explained based on Fano's theorem, describing the compensating effect of two main contributions to cavity absorbed dose. Using the same approach, perturbation effects arising from the difference in atomic properties of the cavity medium and the presence of extracameral components are explained. Volume averaging effects are also discussed in detail.

Conclusions:

Quality correction factors of small megavoltage photon fields are mainly due to differences in electron density between water and the detector medium and to volume averaging over the detector cavity. Other effects, such as the presence of extracameral components and differences in atomic properties of the detection medium with respect to water, can also play an accentuated role in small photon fields compared to standard beams.

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