A Method for Evaluating Quality Assurance Needs in Radiation Therapy

M. Saiful Huq, Benedick A. Fraass, Peter B. Dunscombe, John P. Gibbons, Geoffrey S. Ibbott, Paul M. Medin, Arno Mundt, Sassa Mutic, Jatinder R. Palta, Bruce R. Thomadsen, Jeffrey F. Williamson, Ellen D. Yorke

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The increasing complexity of modern radiation therapy planning and delivery techniques challenges traditional prescriptive quality control and quality assurance programs that ensure safety and reliability of treatment planning and delivery systems under all clinical scenarios. Until now quality management (QM) guidelines published by concerned organizations (e.g., American Association of Physicists in Medicine [AAPM], European Society for Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology [ESTRO], International Atomic Energy Agency [IAEA]) have focused on monitoring functional performance of radiotherapy equipment by measurable parameters, with tolerances set at strict but achievable values. In the modern environment, however, the number and sophistication of possible tests and measurements have increased dramatically. There is a need to prioritize QM activities in a way that will strike a balance between being reasonably achievable and optimally beneficial to patients. A systematic understanding of possible errors over the course of a radiation therapy treatment and the potential clinical impact of each is needed to direct limited resources in such a way to produce maximal benefit to the quality of patient care. Task Group 100 of the AAPM has taken a broad view of these issues and is developing a framework for designing QM activities, and hence allocating resources, based on estimates of clinical outcome, risk assessment, and failure modes. The report will provide guidelines on risk assessment approaches with emphasis on failure mode and effect analysis (FMEA) and an achievable QM program based on risk analysis. Examples of FMEA to intensity-modulated radiation therapy and high-dose-rate brachytherapy are presented. Recommendations on how to apply this new approach to individual clinics and further research and development will also be discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)S170-S173
JournalInternational Journal of Radiation Oncology Biology Physics
Issue number1 SUPPL.
StatePublished - May 1 2008


  • FMEA
  • Process tree
  • Quality management
  • Risk assessment


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