Dose differences in intensity-modulated radiotherapy plans calculated with pencil beam and Monte Carlo for lung SBRT

Han Liu, Tingliang Zhuang, Kevin Stephans, Gregory Videtic, Stephen Raithel, Toufik Djemil, Ping Xia

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


For patients with medically inoperable early-stage non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) treated with stereotactic body radiation therapy, early treatment plans were based on a simpler dose calculation algorithm, the pencil beam (PB) calculation. Because these patients had the longest treatment follow-up, identifying dose differences between the PB calculated dose and Monte Carlo calculated dose is clinically important for understanding of treatment outcomes. Previous studies found significant dose differences between the PB dose calculation and more accurate dose calculation algorithms, such as convolution-based or Monte Carlo (MC), mostly for three-dimensional conformal radiotherapy (3D CRT) plans. The aim of this study is to investigate whether these observed dose differences also exist for intensity-modulated radiotherapy (IMRT) plans for both centrally and peripherally located tumors. Seventy patients (35 central and 35 peripheral) were retrospectively selected for this study. The clinical IMRT plans that were initially calculated with the PB algorithm were recalculated with the MC algorithm. Among these paired plans, dosimetric parameters were compared for the targets and critical organs. When compared to MC calculation, PB calculation overestimated doses to the planning target volumes (PTVs) of central and peripheral tumors with different magnitudes. The doses to 95% of the central and peripheral PTVs were overestimated by 9.7% ± 5.6% and 12.0% ± 7.3%, respectively. This dose overestimation did not affect doses to the critical organs, such as the spinal cord and lung. In conclusion, for NSCLC treated with IMRT, dose differences between the PB and MC calculations were different from that of 3D CRT. No significant dose differences in critical organs were observed between the two calculations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)91-99
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of applied clinical medical physics
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Dose calculation
  • IMRT
  • Lung SBRT
  • Monte Carlo
  • Pencil beam

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiation
  • Instrumentation
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging


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