Dosimetric characteristics, air-kerma strength calibration and verification of Monte Carlo simulation for a new ytterbium-169 brachytherapy source

Harold Perera, Jeffrey F. Williamson, Zuofeng Li, Vivek Mishra, Ali S. Meigooni

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Purpose: Ytterbium-169 (169Yb) is a promising new isotope for brachytherapy with a half life of 32 days and an average photon energy of 93 KeV. It has an Ir-192-equivalent dose distribution in water but a much smaller half-value layer in lead (0.2 mm), affording improved radiation protection and customized shielding of dose-limiting anatomic structures. The goals of this study are to: (a) experimentally validate Monte Carlo photon transport dose-rate calculations for this energy range, (b) to develop a secondary air-kerma strength standard for 169Yb, and (c) to present essential treatment planning data including the transverse-axis dose-rate distribution and dose correction factors for a number of local shielding materials. Methods and Materials: Several interstitial 169Yb, sources (type 6) and an experimental high dose-rate source were made available for this study. Monte-Carlo photon-transport (MCPT) simulations, based upon validated geometric models of source structure, were used to calculate dose rates in water. To verify MCPT predictions, the transverse-axis dose distribution in homogeneous water medium was measured using a silicon-diode detector. For use in designing shielded applicators, heterogeneity correction factors (HCF) arising from small cylindrical heterogeneities of lead, aluminum, titanium, steel and air were measured in a water medium. Finally, to provide a sound experimental basis for comparing experimental and theoretical dose-rate distributions, the air-kerma strength of the sources was measured using a calibrated ion chamber. To eliminate the influence of measurement artifacts on the comparison of theory and measurement, simulated detector readings were compared directly to measured diode readings. The final data are presented in the format endorsed by the Interstitial Collaborative Working Group. Results: The in-air calibration revealed that the air-kerma strength per unit activity (mCi), as quoted by the vendor, varied from 1.30 to 1.57 cGy · cm2/mCi · h depending on seed design. The maximum difference between measured and MCPT-simulated absolute diode readings on the transverse axis was less than 2% indicating that MCPT accurately predicts dose rate in medium for brachytherapy sources in this energy range. Comparison of measured and simulated HCFs for each of the 16 different cylindrical heterogeneities demonstrated 1-3% agreement. The HCFs vary by as much as 200% with respect to distance and by as much as 48% as a function of disk diameter, showing that HCF is strongly dependent on heterogeneity location and lateral dimensions as well as thickness. The dose-rate constant for water medium was found to be 1.225 cGy/h per kerma unit air-strength and 1.962 cGy/h per unit mCi as measured by the vendor. Conclusion: Monte Carlo simulation is an accurate and powerful tool for dosimetric characterization of brachytherapy sources in this energy range. Thin lead foils produce shielding factors comparable to standard shielded applicators for 137Cs. Meaningful theoretical absolute dose calculations in brachytherapy require accurately implemented airkerma strength standards.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)953-970
Number of pages18
JournalInternational journal of radiation oncology, biology, physics
Issue number4
StatePublished - Mar 1 1994


  • Brachytherapy
  • Dosimetry
  • Heterogeneity corrections
  • Monte Carlo simulation
  • Silicon diode measurements
  • Ytterbium-169


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