A radiographic and tomographic imaging system integrated into a medical linear accelerator for localization of bone and soft-tissue targets

David A. Jaffray, Douglas G. Drake, Michel Moreau, Alvaro A. Martinez, John W. Wong

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

231 Scopus citations


Purpose: Dose escalation in conformal radiation therapy requires accurate field placement. Electronic portal imaging devices are used to verify field placement but are limited by the low subject contrast of bony anatomy at megavoltage (MV) energies, the large imaging dose, and the small size of the radiation fields. In this article, we describe the in-house modification of a medical linear accelerator to provide radiographic and tomographic localization of bone and soft-tissue targets in the reference frame of the accelerator. This system separates the verification of beam delivery (machine settings, field shaping) from patient and target localization.Materials and Methods: A kilovoltage (kV) x-ray source is mounted on the drum assembly of an Elekta SL-20 medical linear accelerator, maintaining the same isocenter as the treatment beam with the central axis at 90°to the treatment beam axis. The x-ray tube is powered by a high-frequency generator and can be retracted to the drum-face. Two CCD-based fluoroscopic imaging systems are mounted on the accelerator to collect MV and kV radiographic images. The system is also capable of cone-beam tomographic imaging at both MV and kV energies. The gain stages of the two imaging systems have been modeled to assess imaging performance. The contrast-resolution of the kV and MV systems was measured using a contrast-detail (C-D) phantom. The dosimetric advantage of using the kV imaging system over the MV system for the detection of bone-like objects is quantified for a specific imaging geometry using a C-D phantom. Accurate guidance of the treatment beam requires registration of the imaging and treatment coordinate systems. The mechanical characteristics of the treatment and imaging gantries are examined to determine a localizing precision assuming an unambiguous object. MV and kV radiographs of patients receiving radiation therapy are acquired to demonstrate the radiographic performance of the system. The tomographic performance is demonstrated on phantoms using both the MV and the kV imaging system, and the visibility of soft-tissue targets is assessed.Results and Discussion: Characterization of the gains in the two systems demonstrates that the MV system is x-ray quantum noise-limited at very low spatial frequencies; this is not the case for the kV system. The estimates of gain used in the model are validated by measurements of the total gain in each system. Contrast-detail measurements demonstrate that the MV system is capable of detecting subject contrasts of less than 0.1% (at 6 and 18 MV). A comparison of the kV and MV contrast-detail performance indicates that equivalent bony object detection can be achieved with the kV system at significantly lower doses (factors of 40 and 90 lower than for 6 and 18 MV, respectively). The tomographic performance of the system is promising; soft-tissue visibility is demonstrated at relatively low imaging doses (3 cGy) using four laboratory rats.Conclusions: We have integrated a kV radiographic and tomographic imaging system with a medical linear accelerator to allow localization of bone and soft-tissue structures in the reference frame of the accelerator. Modeling and experiments have demonstrated the feasibility of acquiring high-quality radiographic and tomographic images at acceptable imaging doses. Full integration of the kV and MV imaging systems with the treatment machine will allow on-line radiographic and tomographic guidance of field placement. Keywords: Copyright (C) 1999 Elsevier Science Inc.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)773-789
Number of pages17
JournalInternational Journal of Radiation Oncology Biology Physics
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1999
Externally publishedYes


  • Conebeam computed tomography
  • Kilovoltage
  • Megavoltage
  • Portal imaging

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiation
  • Oncology
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Cancer Research


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