The effect of very small air gaps on small field dosimetry

P. H. Charles, S. B. Crowe, T. Kairn, J. Kenny, J. Lehmann, J. Lye, L. Dunn, B. Hill, R. T. Knight, C. M. Langton, J. V. Trapp

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


The purpose of this study was to investigate the effect of very small air gaps (less than 1mm) on the dosimetry of small photon fields used for stereotactic treatments. Measurements were performed with optically stimulated luminescent dosimeters (OSLDs) for 6 MV photons on a Varian 21iX linear accelerator with a Brainlab MLC attachment for square field sizes down to 6mm×6mm. Monte Carlo simulations were performed using EGSnrc C++user code cavity. It was found that the Monte Carlo model used in this study accurately simulated the OSLD measurements on the linear accelerator. For the 6mm field size, the 0.5mm air gap upstream to the active area of the OSLD caused a 5.3% dose reduction relative to a Monte Carlo simulation with no air gap. A hypothetical 0.2mm air gap caused a dose reduction >2%, emphasizing the fact that even the tiniest air gaps can cause a large reduction in measured dose. The negligible effect on an 18mm field size illustrated that the electronic disequilibrium caused by such small air gaps only affects the dosimetry of the very small fields. When performing small field dosimetry, care must be taken to avoid any air gaps, as can be often present when inserting detectors into solid phantoms. It is recommended that very small field dosimetry is performed in liquid water. When using small photon fields, sub-millimetre air gaps can also affect patient dosimetry if they cannot be spatially resolved on a CT scan. However the effect on the patient is debatable as the dose reduction caused by a 1mm air gap, starting out at 19% in the first 0.1mm behind the air gap, decreases to <5% after just 2mm, and electronic equilibrium is fully re-established after just 5mm.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)6947-6960
Number of pages14
JournalPhysics in Medicine and Biology
Issue number21
StatePublished - Nov 7 2012
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Radiological and Ultrasound Technology


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