Depth dependence of electron backscatter: An energy spectral and dosimetry study using Monte Carlo simulation

James C.L. Chow, Amir M. Owrangi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


This study investigated the depth dependence of electron backscatter from a layer of lead (Pb) for clinical electron beams. The change in the electron backscatter with variation in the water depth above the Pb was determined. Electron energy spectra and relative depth doses as a function of depth in water over the Pb layer were calculated using a Monte Carlo simulation and studied. Phase-space files for 4 and 9 MeV electron beams (10×10 cm2 applicator and cutout) based on the Varian 21 EX linear accelerator were generated using the EGSnrc-based BEAMNRC code. 3 mm of Pb, at depths of 0.5 and 1 cm in water, was irradiated with electrons. The source-to-surface distance is equal to 100 cm. Electron energy spectra and relative depth doses with and without the presence of the Pb layer at different depths in water were determined using the BEAMNRC code. For the 4 MeV electron energy spectra at a depth of 0.5 cm in water, electron backscatter was found to originate at the Pb-water interface and extend to 0.5 cm above the Pb insert. However, at a depth of 1 cm in water, electron backscatter almost disappeared at 0.5 and 1 cm above th ePb insert. This is due to the increased attenuation of the incident 4 MeV electron beam in a thicker layer of water as well as increased attenuation of the electron backscatter above the Pb. This resulted in a 23% decrease in relative dose at a measurement point of 0.5 cm depth, when the depth of the Pb insert was changed from 1 to 0.5 cm. For the electron energy spectra of the 9 MeV beams with a 0.5 cm depth of water, only a small amount of electron backscatter was observed. However, more electron backscatter was found when the water depth was increased to 1 cm. This is because the electron beam energy was decreased more due to the increase in attenuation from the increased depth of water compared to 0.5 cm. Since the electron energy spectrum and relative depth dose above the Pb layer vary with depth of water on top of the Pb, the electron backscatter depends significantly on the thickness of water, or water equivalent bolus, or critical tissue over the Pb shield in electron radiotherapy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)594-601
Number of pages8
JournalMedical physics
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2009


  • Dosimetry
  • Electron backscatter
  • Electron radiotherapy
  • Energy spectrum
  • Monte Carlo simulation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging


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