Consequences of air around an ionization chamber: Are existing solid phantoms suitable for reference dosimetry on an MR-linac?




A protocol for reference dosimetry for the MR-linac is under development. The 1.5 T magnetic field changes the mean path length of electrons in an air-filled ionization chamber but has little effect on the electron trajectories in a surrounding phantom. It is therefore necessary to correct the response of an ionization chamber for the influence of the magnetic field. Solid phantoms are used for dosimetry measurements on the MR-linac, but air is present between the chamber wall and phantom insert. This study aimed to determine if this air influences the ion chamber measurements on the MR-linac. The absolute response of the chamber and reproducibility of dosimetry measurements were assessed on an MR-linac in solid and water phantoms. The sensitivity of the chamber response to the distribution of air around the chamber was also investigated.


Measurements were performed on an MR-linac and replicated on a conventional linac for five chambers. The response of three waterproof chambers was measured with air and with water between the chamber and the insert to measure the influence of the air volume on absolute chamber response. The distribution of air around the chamber was varied indirectly by rotating each chamber about the longitudinal chamber axis in a solid phantom and a water phantom (waterproof chambers only) and measuring the angular dependence of the chamber response, and varied directly by displacing the chamber in the phantom insert using a paper shim positioned at different orientations between the chamber casing and the insert.


The responses of the three waterproof chambers measured on the MR-linac were 0.7%–1.2% higher with water than air in the chamber insert. The responses of the chambers on the conventional linac changed by less than 0.3% when air in the insert was replaced with water. The angular dependence of the chambers ranged from 0.6% to 1.9% in the solid phantom on the MR-linac but was less than 0.5% in water on the MR-linac and less than 0.3% in the solid phantom on the conventional linac. Inserting a shim around the chamber induced changes of the chamber response in a magnetic field of up to 2.2%, but the change in chamber response on the conventional linac was less than 0.3%.


The interaction between the magnetic field and secondary electrons in the air around the chamber reduces the charge collected from 0.7% to 1.2%. The large angular dependence of ion chambers measured in the plastic phantom in a magnetic field appears to arise from a change of air distribution as the chamber is moved within the insert, rather than an intrinsic isotropy of the chamber sensitivity to radiation. It is recommended that reference dosimetry measurements on the MR-linac can be performed only in water, rather than in existing plastic phantoms.