IMRT QA: Selecting gamma criteria based on error detection sensitivity


  • Steers Jennifer M.,

    1. Department of Radiation Oncology, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Los Angeles, California 90048 and Physics and Biology in Medicine IDP, David Geffen School of Medicine, University of California, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California 90095
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  • Fraass Benedick A.

    1. Department of Radiation Oncology, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Los Angeles, California 90048
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The gamma comparison is widely used to evaluate the agreement between measurements and treatment planning system calculations in patient-specific intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) quality assurance (QA). However, recent publications have raised concerns about the lack of sensitivity when employing commonly used gamma criteria. Understanding the actual sensitivity of a wide range of different gamma criteria may allow the definition of more meaningful gamma criteria and tolerance limits in IMRT QA. We present a method that allows the quantitative determination of gamma criteria sensitivity to induced errors which can be applied to any unique combination of device, delivery technique, and software utilized in a specific clinic.


A total of 21 DMLC IMRT QA measurements (ArcCHECK®, Sun Nuclear) were compared to QA plan calculations with induced errors. Three scenarios were studied: MU errors, multi-leaf collimator (MLC) errors, and the sensitivity of the gamma comparison to changes in penumbra width. Gamma comparisons were performed between measurements and error-induced calculations using a wide range of gamma criteria, resulting in a total of over 20 000 gamma comparisons. Gamma passing rates for each error class and case were graphed against error magnitude to create error curves in order to represent the range of missed errors in routine IMRT QA using 36 different gamma criteria.


This study demonstrates that systematic errors and case-specific errors can be detected by the error curve analysis. Depending on the location of the error curve peak (e.g., not centered about zero), 3%/3 mm threshold = 10% at 90% pixels passing may miss errors as large as 15% MU errors and ±1 cm random MLC errors for some cases. As the dose threshold parameter was increased for a given %Diff/distance-to-agreement (DTA) setting, error sensitivity was increased by up to a factor of two for select cases. This increased sensitivity with increasing dose threshold was consistent across all studied combinations of %Diff/DTA. Criteria such as 2%/3 mm and 3%/2 mm with a 50% threshold at 90% pixels passing are shown to be more appropriately sensitive without being overly strict. However, a broadening of the penumbra by as much as 5 mm in the beam configuration was difficult to detect with commonly used criteria, as well as with the previously mentioned criteria utilizing a threshold of 50%.


We have introduced the error curve method, an analysis technique which allows the quantitative determination of gamma criteria sensitivity to induced errors. The application of the error curve method using DMLC IMRT plans measured on the ArcCHECK® device demonstrated that large errors can potentially be missed in IMRT QA with commonly used gamma criteria (e.g., 3%/3 mm, threshold = 10%, 90% pixels passing). Additionally, increasing the dose threshold value can offer dramatic increases in error sensitivity. This approach may allow the selection of more meaningful gamma criteria for IMRT QA and is straightforward to apply to other combinations of devices and treatment techniques.