Minimizing treatment planning errors in proton therapy using failure mode and effects analysis




Failure mode and effects analysis (FMEA) is a widely used tool to evaluate safety or reliability in conventional photon radiation therapy. However, reports about FMEA application in proton therapy are scarce. The purpose of this study is to apply FMEA in safety improvement of proton treatment planning at their center.


The authors performed an FMEA analysis of their proton therapy treatment planning process using uniform scanning proton beams. The authors identified possible failure modes in various planning processes, including image fusion, contouring, beam arrangement, dose calculation, plan export, documents, billing, and so on. For each error, the authors estimated the frequency of occurrence, the likelihood of being undetected, and the severity of the error if it went undetected and calculated the risk priority number (RPN). The FMEA results were used to design their quality management program. In addition, the authors created a database to track the identified dosimetric errors. Periodically, the authors reevaluated the risk of errors by reviewing the internal error database and improved their quality assurance program as needed.


In total, the authors identified over 36 possible treatment planning related failure modes and estimated the associated occurrence, detectability, and severity to calculate the overall risk priority number. Based on the FMEA, the authors implemented various safety improvement procedures into their practice, such as education, peer review, and automatic check tools. The ongoing error tracking database provided realistic data on the frequency of occurrence with which to reevaluate the RPNs for various failure modes.


The FMEA technique provides a systematic method for identifying and evaluating potential errors in proton treatment planning before they result in an error in patient dose delivery. The application of FMEA framework and the implementation of an ongoing error tracking system at their clinic have proven to be useful in error reduction in proton treatment planning, thus improving the effectiveness and safety of proton therapy.