The role of uncertainty analysis in treatment planning

M. M. Urie, M. Goitein, K. Doppke, J. G. Kutcher, T. LoSasso, R. Mohan, J. E. Munzenrider, M. Sontag, J. W. Wong

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

90 Scopus citations


The role of uncertainty analysis in 3-D treatment planning systems was addressed by four institutions which contracted with NCI to evaluate high energy photon external beam treatment planning. Treatment plans were developed at eight disease sites and the effects of uncertainties assessed in a number of experiments. Uncertainties which are patient-site specific included variations in the delineation of target volumes and normal tissues and the effects of positional uncertainties due to physiological motion and setup nonreproducibility. These were found to have a potentially major impact on the doses to the target volumes and to critical normal tissues which could result in significantly altered probabilities of tumor control and normal tissue complications. Other uncertainties, such as the conversion of CT data to electron densities, heterogeneities and dose calculation algorithms' weaknesses, are related to physical processes. The latter was noted to have the greatest potential contribution to uncertainty in some sites. A third category of uncertainty related to the treatment machine, the consequences of compensator misregistration, are exclusive to the site and the treatment portal. Because conventional treatment planning systems have not incorporated uncertainty analysis, tools and techniques had to be devised for this work; further development in this area is needed. Many of the analyses could not have been done without full 3-D capabilities of the planning systems, and it can be anticipated that the availability of uncertainty analysis in these systems which allow nontraditional beam arrangements will be of great value.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)91-107
Number of pages17
JournalInternational journal of radiation oncology, biology, physics
Issue number1
StatePublished - May 15 1991
Externally publishedYes


  • Photon beam analysis
  • Three-dimensional treatment planning
  • Uncertainty analysis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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