A validation of carbon fiber imaging couch top modeling in two radiation therapy treatment planning systems: Philips Pinnacle and BrainLAB
Carbon fiber is commonly used in radiation therapy for treatment tabletops and various immobilization and support devices, partially because it is generally perceived to be almost radiotransparent to high-energy photons. To avoid exposure to normal tissue during modern radiation therapy, one must deliver the radiation from all gantry angles; hence, beams often transit the couch proximal to the patient. The effects of the beam attenuation by the support structure of the couch are often neglected in the planning process. In this study, we investigate the attenuation of 6-MV and 18-MV photon beams by a Medtec (Orange City, IA) carbon fiber couch. We have determined that neglecting the attenuation of oblique treatment fields by the carbon fiber couch can result in localized dose reduction from 4% to 16%, depending on energy, field size, and geometry. Further, we investigate the ability of a commercial treatment-planning system (Theraplan Plus v3.8) to account for the attenuation by the treatment couch. Results show that incorporating the carbon fiber couch in the patient model reduces the dose error to less than 2%. The variation in dose reduction as a function of longitudinal couch position was also measured. In the triangular strut region of the couch, the attenuation varied +/- 0.5% following the periodic nature of the support structure. Based on these findings, we propose the routine incorporation of the treatment tabletop into patient treatment planning dose calculations.