The use of active breathing control (ABC) to reduce margin for breathing motion

John W. Wong, Michael B. Sharpe, David A. Jaffray, Vijay R. Kini, John M. Robertson, Jannifer S. Stromberg, Alavro A. Martinez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: For tumors in the thorax and abdomen, reducing the treatment margin for organ motion due to breathing reduces the VOlume of normal tissues that will be irradiated. A higher dose can be delivered to the target, provided that the risk of marginal misses is not increased. To ensure safe margin reduction, we investigated the feasibility of using active breathing control (ABC) to temporarily immobilize the patient's breathing. Treatment planning and delivery can then be performed at identical ABC conditions with minimal margin for breathing motion. Methods and Materials: An ABC apparatus is constructed consisting of 2 pairs of flow monitor and scissor valve, 1 each to control the inspiration and expiration paths to the patient. The patient breathes through a mouth-piece connected to the ABC apparatus. The respiratory signal is processed continuously, using a personal computer that displays the changing lung volume in real-time. After the patient's breathing pattern becomes stable, the operator activates ABC at a preselected phase in the breathing cycle. Both valves are then closed to immobilize breathing motion. Breathing motion of 12 patients were held with ABC to examine their acceptance of the procedure. The feasibility of applying ABC for treatment was tested in 5 patients by acquiring volumetric scans with a spiral computed tomography (CT) scanner during active breath-hold. Two patients had Hodgkin's disease, 2 had metastatic liver cancer, and 1 had lung cancer. Two intrafraction ABC scans were acquired at the same respiratory phase near the end of normal or deep inspiration. An additional ABC scan near the end of normal expiration was acquired for 2 patients. The ABC scans were also repeated 1 week later for a Hodgkin's patient. In 1 liver patient, ABC scans were acquired at 7 different phases of the breathing cycle to facilitate examination of the liver motion associated with ventilation. Contours of the lungs and livers were outlined when applicable. The variation of the organ positions and volumes for the different scans were quantified and compared. Results: The ABC procedure was well tolerated in the 12 patients. When ABC was applied near the end of normal expiration, the minimal duration of active breath-hold was 15 s for 1 patient with lung cancer, and 20 s or more for all other patients. The duration was greater than 40 s for 2 patients with Hodgkin's disease when ABC was applied during deep inspiration. Scan artifacts associated with normal breathing motion were not observed in the ABC scans. The analysis of the small set of intrafraction scan data indicated that with ABC, the liver volumes were reproducible at about 1%, and lung volumes to within 6%. The excursions of a 'center of target' parameter for the livers were less than 1 mm at the same respiratory phase, but were larger than 4 mm at the extremes of the breathing cycle. The inter-fraction scan study indicated that daily setup variation contributed to the uncertainty in assessing the reproducibility of organ immobilization with ABC between treatment fractions. Conclusion: The results were encouraging; ABC provides a simple means to minimize breathing motion. When applied for CT scanning and treatment, the ABC procedure requires no more than standard operation of the CT scanner or the medical accelerator. The ABC scans are void of motion artifacts commonly seen on fast spiral CT scans. When acquired at different points in the breathing cycle, these ABC scans show organ motion in three- dimension (3D) that can be used to enhance treatment planning. Reproducibility of organ immobilization with ABC throughout the course of treatment must be quantified before the procedure can be applied to reduce margin for conformal treatment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)911-919
Number of pages9
JournalInternational Journal of Radiation Oncology Biology Physics
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 1 1999
Externally publishedYes


  • Active breathing control
  • Breathing motion
  • Intra-fraction organ motion

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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