Experimental verification and clinical implementation of a commercial Monte Carlo electron beam dose calculation algorithm

Margarida Fragoso, Sushakumari Pillai, Timothy D. Solberg, Indrin J. Chetty

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


This study describes the modeling and the experimental verification and clinical implementation of the alpha release of Pinnacle3 Monte Carlo (MC) electron beam dose calculation algorithm for patient-specific treatment planning. The MC electron beam modeling was performed for beam energies ranging from 6 to 18 MeV from a Siemens (Primus) linear accelerator using standard-shaped electron applicators and 100 cm source-to-surface distance (SSD). The agreement between MC calculations and measurements was, on average, within 2% and 2 mm for all applicator sizes. However, differences of the order of 3%-4% were noted in the off-axis dose profiles for the largest applicator modeled and for all energies. Output factors were calculated for standard electron cones and square cutouts inserted in the 10×10 cm2 applicator for different SSDs and were found to be within 4% of measured data. Experimental verification of the MC electron beam model was carried out using an ionization chamber and film in solid-water slab and anthropomorphic phantoms containing bone and lung materials. Agreement between calculated and measured dose distributions was within ±3%. Clinical comparison was performed in four patient treatment plans with lesions in highly irregular anatomies, such as the ear, face, and breast, where custom-designed bolus and field shaping blocks were used in the patient treatments. For comparison purposes, treatment planning was also performed using the conventional pencil beam (PB) algorithm with the Pinnacle3 treatment planning system. Differences between MC and PB dose calculations for the patient treatment plans were significant, particularly in anatomies where the target was in close proximity to low density tissues, such as lung and air cavities. Concerning monitor unit calculations, the largest differences obtained between MC and PB algorithms were between 4.0% and 5.0% for two patients treated with oblique beams and involving highly irregular surfaces, i.e., breast and cheek. Clinical results are reported for overall uncertainty values (averaged over voxels with doses >50% dosemax) ranging from 2% to 0.3% and calculations were performed using cubic voxels with side 0.3 cm. Timing values ranged from 2 min to 24.5 h, depending on the field size, beam energy, number, and thickness of computed tomography slices used to define the patient's anatomy for the overall uncertainty values mentioned above.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1028-1038
Number of pages11
JournalMedical physics
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2008


  • Electron beam
  • Monte Carlo
  • Treatment planning algorithms

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging


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